Cheat Meal: Meatballs and Marinara

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Meatballs and homemade marinara sauce make for a tasty, easy to make dish that packs a nutritious punch.

The cheat in this dish is using pre-made meatballs to save time. Note that the sauce uses chopped tomatoes, not jarred sauce. The tomatoes are more nutritious and the sauce is brighter and fresher when done this way.

  • Fresh, pre-made meatballs; I try to buy grass fed beef for better taste (if you can find chicken, or turkey meatballs and prefer that, just be aware that they will cook faster than the beef!)
  • 28 oz box of chopped tomatoes (I use Pom, which comes from Italy)
  • 2-3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs garlic paste (I buy tubes of Italian-made garlic paste at my supermarket)
  • 1 tsp each, salt and pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes (or 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh — preferred, if available)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 sprig basil, leaves only
  • 4 servings of pasta
Cooking instructions
  • In a large skillet heat oil on high until a drop or two of water “dances” on its surface
  • Add onions and turn down the heat to medium; stir the onions periodically until they caramelize. Don’t rush it — the caramelization adds a nice sweet note to the sauce
  • Heat a large pot of salted water
  • When the onions have started to brown, add diced peppers, garlic paste and oregano to the skillet; cook until the peppers have softened
  • Remove and set aside the onion/pepper mix; preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Add meatballs to the skillet and brown on all sides
  • Return onions/peppers to the skillet
  • Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and chopped tomatoes to the skillet; ensure that the meatballs are coated
  • Cover skillet and place in the oven for about 20 minutes
  • After the skillet has been in the oven for 10 minutes, add pasta to rapidly boiling water and cook until al dente (about 8 minutes, depending upon the style of pasta used)
  • Serve sauce and meatballs over pasta, tearing the basil leaves and garnishing the dish

Note: do not use a cast iron pan — the acid in the tomatoes will pull a metallic taste into your dish!