Food and Drink | January 25, 2014

Surprise Your Lover with Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs Teaford style
Spaghetti and meatballs Teaford style

Take your sweetheart on a virtual trip to Tuscany (… or Fazoli’s) by cooking my signature spaghetti and meatballs dinner. This classic combination is perfect for a romantic night at home or for entertaining moochers. This makes a big pot of sauce and 10-12 meatballs, so it would not be romantic to eat it all in one sitting.


  • 1 large onion
  • 5 cloves (or more) of garlic
  • 1 large lemon
  • fresh parsley
  • olive oil
  • 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
  • 10 ounces Ro*Tel®
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 ounce black olives
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 4 ounces prosciutto
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 6 ounces pecorino romano
  • ¼ cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 eggs

Luke’s Tomato Lava with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Sauce)

Peel the lemon. Make sure you remove as much of the pith as possible. Squeeze the juice out of the lemon into a glass container. Remove any seeds from the mix now as well as any large chunks of pith. Set this container aside.

Peel the garlic and then slice it as thin as you can manage. Put the individual slices in the lemon juice container and stir them around. Make sure to submerge the garlic so it soaks up the lemon flavor. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Well, hell, can’t I just eat this?” but—trust me—the finished product is worth the wait.

Combine the Italian seasoning, brown sugar, salt, red pepper, and black pepper into a container and mix them together. These are the dry ingredients. Set them aside for later. Open all the cans, but do not drain any of them. If you are using canned olives, it is wise to drain those. If not, it’s not a huge deal but people will probably report feeling a little funky. Like I said, it’s no big deal.

Dice the onion into small pieces. Put it into a big pot and add the olive oil. I use an embarrassing amount. Most people would probably use 2 tablespoons. Set the heat to medium and cook the onion until it becomes transparent. (It won’t really become transparent. It will look like a yellowish, greenish alien skin.)

Pour the lemon juice and garlic into the pot with the onion and cook for a few more minutes. You can leave the lemon pulp out if you want because it doesn’t seem to make much difference. The garlic will turn yellow as it cooks. Don’t let it become brown because it will be bitter. You want the garlic to be like the yellowy off-white of a popcorn jellybean.

Add the olives. Stir the pot. Add the dry ingredients. Stir the pot. Add the Ro*Tel®, whole peeled tomatoes, and tomato paste. Stir the pot. Turn the burner down to low. Check for subversive messages hidden in recipes. You can let the sauce reduce a little to thicken it up. Cover the pot.

Let the tomato lava (sauce) simmer for 4-6 hours. I usually take a break before I begin the meatballs. Sometimes I find little chores to do around the house.

Teaford’s “No Joke” Meatballs

Remove the ground beef, ground pork, prosciutto, and eggs from the refrigerator. If these items weren’t in the fridge, you’ve already ruined it. Your hands are going to become filthy, so there’s no sense in also being cold. If you wear diamonds or rubies, you will want to remove your jewelry before you proceed.

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. This is to keep the grease from the meatballs from getting on the cookie sheet. It makes cleaning up easier, and it’s something to do while the meat warms up.

Get out a big bowl (that’s a mixing bowl, Colorado!). Put the breadcrumbs and cheese in the bowl. Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Rip the prosciutto into tiny pieces as you add it. It’s fun like tearing up money! Add the beef and pork and mix everything together. Turn the clump over and knead it. Rip it apart, and push it back together again. Make a snowman out of it and flatten it with your palm. When the meat is well mixed, add the cream and eggs. Keep mixing it until it becomes a thick clump again.

Fill your palm with meat and roll it into a ball. You can probably make 10-12 of these. My friends in Colorado with really big hands might only get 5 or 6. It all depends.

Put the cookie sheet in the oven. This is the worst and most stressful part because anything could happen. Usually, the meatballs are cooked in 20 minutes. Sometimes it takes 25 minutes. Sometimes they are runny inside. Sometimes they are crispy on top.

Bringing It All Together

While the meatballs are cooking, use a hand blender on the spaghetti. Set it to full blast even if you have a brand new white kitchen and make sure you get all the clusters of tomatoes and lemon. You’re trying to make a homogeneous tomato lava. If you want chunks, get Ragú®—lord knows you’ll be barfing up a lot of them. Add the freshly chopped parsley to the sauce. This imparts a springtime freshness to the tomato lava.

Boil a pot of water and add the spaghetti. If you’re into low carb, gluten-free alternatives, now is the time to prepare those. Some people like my tomato lava on spaghetti squash. Others just forego the noodles altogether. Serve slightly al dente.

Atmosphere and Finishing Touches

Candlelight is a great way to set the mood for a night in. Scented candles have an effect on the flavor of the meal: using them is a big, uncool mistake. If you’re serving this dish at a party, skip the Sinatra and even Dean Martin and play your Giovanni Fusco albums.

Check on the meatballs. You will notice some grease has oozed out of the meatballs and is sticking them to the aluminum foil. The meatballs may be slightly brown on top with tiny yellow bubbles. If your meatballs look like that, you’ve made a good batch!

Due to the extreme heat of my tomato lava, refreshments are an important part of this meal. I recommend sparkling water with lime, but it also pairs well with any wine under $6. I like to have ice cream for dessert.