Simple Tomato Sauce with Meatballs
Serves 8 to 12

You can also simmer the meatballs in the sauce in a 425 degree oven for an hour or so. If you don’t feel like pulling out your food processor to make breadcrumbs, simple grate them on the coarse holes of a box grater.

1 pound each: ground beef (90/10) and ground pork
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
7 garlic minced cloves, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, divided
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (or bacon fat!)
1 medium onion, cut into small dice
2 each: celery stalks and carrots, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons (double concentrated) tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 cups dry red wine
4 cans of whole tomatoes, packed in puree

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix ground meats, eggs, breadcrumbs, 2 garlic cloves, cheese, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper in a large bowl until just combined. Form mixture into 24 balls, arranging them on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until firm and brown, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; saute until very soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Add remaining 5 garlic cloves; sauté until fragrant, about another minute. Add tomato paste, remaining 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and thyme; sauté for another minute. Add bay leaves and wine; simmer for another 2 minutes.

Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and squeeze them with your hands to break them up (but not too much!). Add tomatoes, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered and adding the meatballs as they emerge from the oven, until the sauce has reached desired flavor and consistency, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If sauce is getting too thick before the meatballs have been simmered for an hour or more, just add water and keep simmering. (Can be cooled, covered and refrigerated up to 5 days and frozen for several months.)

When ready to serve, warm sauce and meatballs and serve with your favorite pasta.