Meatballs were fancy. It wasn't how pasta was served in the house where I grew up; crumbled ground beef and canned or bottled sauce were the rule, filling and good enough. If you wanted authentic spaghetti and meatballs, you went to Rosie's Little Italy* and got the real thing, or as close as an Indiana county-seat town had to offer in the late 1970s.
It's 2021 and 2022 is fixing to roll in like Darth Vader's Star Dreadnought. Meatballs -- artisanal meatballs! -- are a convenience food these days.
I've been noticing frozen and refrigerated trays of them in our corner grocer's for awhile now and I finally decided to try them. The fancy three-meat ones were no more expensive than plain. I picked up a bottle of fancy sauce and last night, I cooked them for dinner.
First surprise: the packaging is opaque; the six big meatballs turn out to be supplied with a fair amount of sauce. The bottle of truffle-infused marinara got saved for later. I started water for the pasta -- plenty of bowtie noodles left from last time -- and set the meatballs to nuke while I sauteed some diced carrot, celery and (canned, so lazy) mushrooms with Italian spice mix in a little olive oil.
With the noodles simmering, I sliced three Castelvetrano olives, and they went into the pan just ahead of the noodles and hot meatballs in sauce. I'd set out a small can of plain tomato sauce if needed, but there was plenty of sauce; the vegetables, meatballs and sauce got to simmer and get acquainted under cover while the pasta finished, though I did lift the lid long enough to snip a Piprarra pepper into it in short segments. (Yes, I Add Things to the sauce, pretty much every time. YMMV.)
The end result was quite good and something I would never go to the trouble of making on a weekday if I had to do it from scratch. As a low-effort supper treat, instant meatballs do well indeed.
* Gone now, trailing off with the kind of mixed reviews that suggest a place is struggling to keep going. The little town where I grew up has lost a lot of industry and it has hit the local economy hard. But back when, Rosie's served good food from a real Italian chef, with a couple of locations and plenty of atmosphere.
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