Grandma’s Italian Meatballs & Sauce

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Today I am sharing with you a treasure! My grandmother’s Italian Meatballs and Homemade Sauce recipe. I even had to ask her permission to share this family recipe with y’all. This is the true authentic way to make Italian meatballs. They are so good. So so good. Best comfort meal. Best meatballs hands down. Okay, get the point yet? They are so delicious!!

Recipe is below. We serve on top of spaghetti noodles. Paired with a side salad, fresh Italian bread, and a bottle of red wine.

Side note: I do not put a serving size on sauce and meatballs because everyone eats a different amount. It makes a decent size batch though. I always make the whole batch. If I have leftovers, I freeze the meatballs in the sauce for another meal. They do make a great freezer meal. Just defrost and make some spaghetti noodles for an easy last-minute meal!

 

INTALIAN MEATBALLS & SAUCE RECIPE

MEATBALL INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb. Ground Beef
  • 1/2 lb. Ground Pork or Italian Sausage
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 cloves minced Garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Parsley
  • 1/2 cup graded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Bread Crumbs (Soaked in a little milk)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

SAUCE INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large can Tomato Puree
  • 1 small can Tomato Paste
  • 1-2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 pinch of Sugar

OPTIONAL GARNISH: Fresh Parsley or Basil Leaves

Combine sauce ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook sauce on low for 1/2-1 hour. While that is cooking, mix meatball ingredients in one large bowl by hand. Use hands to mix until thoroughly combined. Roll into 1″ balls. After sauce has cooked on low for 1/2-1 hour by itself, add in meatballs. Cook on low for an additional 1 hour, covered. Uncover and cook until sauce is thicker. REMOVE BAY LEAVES BEFORE SERVING. They can cause esophageal discomfort and injury if swallowed. Serve atop spaghetti noodles!

 

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Bacon & Goat Cheese Quesadilla

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We eat quesadillas {almost} everyday for lunch around here. I think I am just burnt out on sandwiches from taking them in my school lunch everyday when I was a child. My one year old loves quesadillas too. It’s so easy to sneak in healthy ingredients like spinach, tomatoes, beans, avocado, etc. I’ve been getting creative with my quesadillas lately to mix it up. Here is one of my favorites!

BACON & GOAT CHEESE QUESADILLA

Makes 1 half-size quesadilla

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Burrito Shell (I used wheat)
  • 3 tablespoons Goat Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Havarti Cheese
  • 1 slice of cooked Bacon, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 sliced Avocado
  • 6 slivers of Red Onion
  • 1/2 cup Spinach
  • 1 teaspoon Olive Oil

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Once warmed up, toss in spinach and onions to cook. Remove spinach when slightly wilted and onions when softened, set aside. Spray skilled with olive oil.  Place tortilla on skillet. On half, place goat cheese, havarti, bacon, cooked red onion, and wilted spinach. Cover with other half of tortilla shell. Cook until slighted browned on each side. Remove from heat, open shell and place avocado pieces in. Cut into wedges to serve.

 

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¡Brunch Fiesta!

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Who says you can’t fiesta in the morning?! Today I am sharing with you a Brunch Fiesta. Combining two of my favorite things that bring people together: brunch and mexican food! I love thinking outside the box when it comes to hosting. Hosting doesn’t always have to be a dinner or cookout. Sometimes it is fun to mix it up a little!

I created this colorful tablescape using these fun napkins, galvanized metal chargers, plates and a variety of glasses. The great thing about using a variety of colors is you don’t have to worry about things matching perfectly. The green yogurt parfait glass is actually a votive candle holder from Michaels. Love when I purchase multi-use items. (High-five to myself.)

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When you are on a budget, you want your dollar to go as far as possible. While flowers are a beautiful centerpiece, that’s their only purpose. I love using food for my centerpieces. It looks pretty and I can eat it. How’s that for repurposed?! For this specific centerpiece, I used a combination of limes and oranges in a large vase. And sticking with the mexican theme, 2 bunches of cilantro in a vase for some greenery. (P.S. Cilantro is an affordable centerpiece as well, only $0.99 for 2 bunches!)

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For the main course, I served Breakfast Burritos. You can serve these two ways: pre-made or buffet style. For buffet style, I recommend setting up a designated burrito making station where guests fill and make their own burritos. Your ingredient options can be endless! Eggs, bacon, sausage, peppers, onion, salsa, guacamole, avocado, green onion, cilantro, greek yogurt, black olives, etc. Buffet option would definitely be easier if you have several guests. My Spicy Breakfast Burrito recipe can be found here.

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For a side dish I served bacon and for my brunch dessert a Mango Yogurt Parfait. Every brunch needs a sweet treat to finish with!

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And let’s not forget about the most important part of a fiesta, the margaritas! For brunch, I recommend serving this oh so amazing Margarita Mimosa! Seriously, this drink alone is worth hosting a brunch fiesta! Cheers!

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Margarita Mimosa

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This might be one of my favorite drinks of all time. How awesome is this concept?! Love to serve these during my brunch fiestas. I use champagne in mine, but if you want to take it up a notch or two, substitute tequila for the champagne. I add the mini champagne bottle for fun, but not a must. And I highly recommend the lime flavored salt. It compliments the orange flavor of the mimosa nicely.

MARGARITA MIMOSA RECIPE

Servings: 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate
  • 4 cups Ice (I used empty can from juice)
  • 2 cups Champagne (OR 1 cup tequila if you are feeling extra spicy!)
  • Lime Salt 
  • Optional: Lime or Orange Slices for garnish

Fill bowl with ice water. Dip edges of margarita glass in ice water then in the salt so it makes a pretty salt rim. In a blender, combine orange juice concentrate, ice, and champagne. Blend until desired consistency. Serve in margarita glass. Optional: add the mini champagne bottle to each margarita glass. Garnish with lime or orange wedge. 

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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This is one of my go-to dishes when I need to take a side dish somewhere. It’s so simple to make. Minimal ingredients, easy to transport, and absolutely delicious. You can easily triple, double, quadruple the recipe to make larger quantities. It is also a great side dish to make when you are hosting a dinner. It gives you plenty of time to focus on cooking other dishes.

ROASTED SWEET POTATOES

Servings: 4-6

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 Sweet Potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 3 tablespoons Rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and scrub potatoes in water. Peel skin with a carrot peeler.  Chop potatoes into chunks. Line baking sheet with foil. Place potatoes on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Bake for 35-45 minutes until tender and browned. You may need to flip potatoes once during baking time so potatoes roast evenly.

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Pesto alla Genovese

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I don’t think I have ever purchased a jar of pesto from the grocery store. My mother and grandmother have always grown basil plants. Throughout the summer they harvest their basil and makes large batches of pesto to freeze for the winter months. That’s the awesome thing about pesto, you can freeze it! Your basil plant will never go to waste. I typically freeze it in baby food freezer containers, ice-cube trays, or cupcake liners. Pesto is delicious on more than just pasta or chicken… it can be used on bread, sandwiches, pizza, lasagna, dips, appetizers, vinaigrettes, vegetable marinade, etc. It is a great sauce to have on hand to add flavor to any dish.

As I was making this batch of pesto with my grandma we were discussing its origin. While it is definitely an Italian sauce, my grandmother whose parents were from Italy, said she can’t remember her mother ever making it. She said her mom always had a basil plant and chopped it up to put in dishes, but never the smooth consistency of a sauce.

My curiosity got the best of me and I did some research on the history of pesto. It was born in Liguria, Italy which is northern Italy. The recipe today calls for parmigiano-reggiano (parmesan cheese), but it is interesting to note that some versions of original recipe call for formaggio d’olinda (gouda cheese). The maritime commerce with northern Europe made gouda almost more readily available. Also, seasonal shortages of basil sometimes required marjoram or parsley to be substituted. Obviously they did not have food processors back then to make it like we do today. The traditional way of making pesto is chopping the basil by knife and mashing all the ingredients together.

Maybe pesto was not a traditional Italian dish for my great-grandmother who was from southern Italy. Or maybe her form of pesto was a chopped, more rustic look. Anyway, sorry for getting sidetracked, there’s your history lesson for today! For the sake of time, I make my pesto in a food processor, but more power to you if you chop and mash it by hand.

PESTO ALLA GENOVESE RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons graded parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic

Add all ingredients except parmesan to food processor. Blend until smooth. Add cheese and process again until blended. (Feel free to add more parmesan if you like your pesto more cheesy.) Serve on pasta, chicken, flatbread, pizza, etc.

Make sure to keep pesto refrigerated or frozen.

 

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Homemade Croutons

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I love to cook, but firing up the oven on these 100 degree summer days make me cringe. I opt for creating more salads for summertime dinners.  The great thing about salads is you can change up your ingredients and it is basically always going to turn out good.  You can’t go wrong with salad ingredients. To spice up my barbecue chicken salad, I like to add in yummy cheeses like feta or goat cheese, make homemade ranch dressing and homemade croutons. Very simple things that add an extra touch. Today I am sharing with you my crouton recipe. Enjoy!

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HOMEMADE CROUTONS

Servings: 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 slices of artisan bread

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

salt & pepper to taste

 

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut bread into chunks. Melt butter in microwave for around 15 seconds. Stir in garlic powder, parsley and a dash of salt & pepper to melted butter. Dredge bread pieces in butter melted until thoroughly soaked. Place bread on foil lined baking sheet. Bake for around 20 minutes or until crispy.

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First Birthday Pow-Wow

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My little man turned one and I just cannot believe it. They always tell you time flies with children, but man, it really does. Our son is the only grandchild, great-grandchild, nephew, etc. between both my husband and I’s family. Since we have such a BIG family, I knew they would all be there to celebrate our wild little man!

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When trying to decide on a theme, I wanted to do something that incorporated his interests. When he was around 6 months old, we taught him how to make an “indian sound” by holding our hand up to his mouth. Now at 12 months he can make the “indian sound” all by himself. That’s how I came up with a tribal themed pow-wow.

The party planning commenced with these invitations that one of my good friends Cassandra designed. How adorable are they?! She is so creative! Highly recommend for any of your customized designing needs!

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I created the burlap, feather, and fur banners. I had so much fun making banners for each room. (I’m even repurposing the fur banner for his nursery!)

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I also created his high chair banner. I stuck with the feather theme and added a variety of colors.

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Since we had so many people attending and luckily his birthday is in the summer, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and host the party outdoors. I found these beautiful dreamcatchers on clearance. I hung them on our birch tree in the backyard which served as a festive backdrop during his cake smash. (Sidenote: highly recommend doing cake smash outside if possible! There was cake everywhere!)

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Being a hot July day, I knew we would need plenty of drinks. I ordered Avery water bottle labels off Amazon, used their free online template with colorful arrows, and created these “Wigwam Water” bottle labels. I think they turned out great and added a nice little touch to the party.

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We served tribal tea (sweet tea) and raspberry lemonade out of these fun mason jar cups. I used twine and feathers to tie around the top for a festive look. I ordered the birch paper straws off Etsy.

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I found these adorable plates, napkins and cups on Etsy from SteshaParty. They were so cute!

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I originally wanted to do a trail mix bar where guests could assemble their own bag of trail mix, but my husband nixed that idea and encouraged me to just buy the bag of pre-made trail mix to make my life easier. So that is what I {begrudgingly} did. I wanted something fun to serve them in and hand stamped these paper bags for both the trail mix and jerky. They turned out much better than I expected. I am also a big fan of single serving size items at parties. I think some guests are more apt to pick up a single serving to snack on than make themselves a whole plate.
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For food we served the jerky and trail mix along with teepee sandwiches, teepee pinwheels, spring mix salad, quinoa salad with jalapeno vinaigrette, watermelon feta blackberry skewers, multi-grain tortilla chips, roasted red pepper hummus, and pita chips. I tried to stick with the tribal theme and chose “natural” foods.

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I have to give a huge shout out to Ali’s Little Cake Shop for the delicious cupcakes and smash cake! I decided to go with a variety of flavors for the cupcakes. I ordered these adorable cupcake toppers from Eventprint and used the chalkboard as a key to let guests know which topper symbolized which flavor.  And how cute did his smash cake turn out?! Ali did such an amazing job!!

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The party was a great success. My little man had a ball and we did too. How should a one-year old birthday and cake smash end? With a dip in the baby pool! This guy was just living the high life on his birthday!

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Interested in throwing a party or event but not quite sure where to start? I’m excited to announce my event planning services! I offer virtual event planning and/or local for the Richmond, VA area. For more information on party planning services or any other questions please email me at: thegatheringhost@gmail.com.

 

SOURCES:

Wild One T-Shirt: Moodz Online

Feather Headband: Graham & Brooks

Invitations: @brownberrydesigns // brownberrydesigns@gmail.com

Burlap Banner: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Feather Banner: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Feather High Chair Banner: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Dreamcatchers: Earthbound Trading Co.

Water Bottle Labels: Amazon

Wild One Burlap Banner: The Gathering Host

Mason Jar Cups: The Gathering Host

Birch Paper Straws: The Party Gnome

Plates, Cups, Napkins: Stesha Party

Jerky Bags: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Trail Mix Bags: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Teepee Cookie Cutter: Chocolate Supplies

Arrow Skewers: Eventprint

Fur Banner: The Gathering Host – Click for Etsy Shop

Cupcake Toppers: Eventprint

“Wild One” Cake Topper: Eventprint

Cupcakes: Ali’s Little Cake Shop

Smash Cake: Ali’s Little Cake shop

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Chicken, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Pizza

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There’s something about fancy restaurant pizzas that just always hit the spot. Maybe because it’s typically a pizza you know you could never recreate at home. You know the ones I’m talking about…the ones with fancy ingredients like “caramelized onions” and “figs” and “goat cheese” with some type of special sauce. Well I am so excited to let y’all know that the code has been broken! The code aka fancy pizza recipe. Tonight I created a fancy pizza in my own kitchen! It was not hard at all…nor did it use any ingredients I didn’t already have on hand – another big plus. I paired it with a simple spring mix salad and glass of wine for an upscale take on good ol’ pizza night!

CHICKEN BACON AND CARMELIZED ONION PIZZA RECIPE

  • 1 pre-made pizza crust
  • 1 piece of chicken
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 slices of cooked bacon torn into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 medium red onion sliced thinly
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Cut into cubes. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. Throw in diced chicken. Turn until cooked thoroughly, set aside. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in skillet on medium heat. Throw in spinach. Cook until slightly wilted, set aside on paper towels. Squeeze out any excess water from spinach. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in same skillet on medium heat. Add thinly sliced onions. Allow onions to cook down for around 10 minutes, stirring as necessary. Add in sugar and toss to coat evenly. Let onions cook down for another 10 minutes. After they have cooked, add balsamic vinegar to onions and toss to coat. Set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add minced garlic and flour while stirring. Continue to stir as you add in the warm milk. Add parmesan cheese and nutmeg while you are still whisking. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the sauce starts to bubble, remove from heat. Brush edges of pizza crust with olive oil. Spread the sauce over pizza, leaving a 1/2″ lip around edge. Sprinkle on 3/4 of the mozzarella cheese. Then add spinach, caramelized onions, and cooked chicken. Finish topping with remaining mozzarella, feta, and bacon. Bake pizza for 10-15 minutes.

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