Pretend Cooking Blog

I spend an inordinate amount of time researching dinner recipes on cooking blogs. Not that I don’t already have a thousand recipes shoved into my recipe binder, but I always seem to need a new one when it comes time to plan dinner. When I find one I like, and that “looks” gourmet, I pretend I’m a chef.

So here is a Pretend Cooking Blog, as if I knew what I was doing. With pictures.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

This is a recipe I scrabbled together using three or four others until I compiled what I wanted. It does take a bit of time to make, so if you’re chauffeuring kids around on a Wednesday evening, save this for Sunday. But if you have about 30 minutes to prep and another 30 to simmer, it’s doable on a weeknight. You might eat a bit late, but I swear, it’s worth it.


  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes. If you have only diced tomatoes, you can drain it in a sieve and then smush it through the holes with the back of a ladle for a bit. What’s left will be broken down enough to work. If you choose not to smush, it’s just a chunkier sauce.
  • 3-4 basil leaves, chopped. I grow basil outside in the summer, pick, wash, and freeze individually on a cookie tray. Then I put the lot in a freezer ziplock and use it during the winter. It’s not pretty as it tends to brown a bit when thawed, but the flavor is the same and perfect for a sauce.
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • Chopped garlic. I use a ginormous spoonful from a jar of pre-chopped garlic, so… 1 heaping tablespoon?
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 oz tomato paste
  • Salt ‘n Pepper (use more than you think you need)


  • 1 lb beef or .5 lb beef and .5 lb pork (but who ever has both on hand??)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup curly parsley. I chop about a 1/2 cup and reserve a little for garnish.
  • Bread crumbs, 1/4-cupish. Less if fine, 1/2 cup is NOT. Been there, done that, ate weird meatballs.
  • 1 egg
  • Chopped garlic. Again, I can’t give you an amount as I just go for a spoonful out of the jar.
  • Salt ‘n pepper (always more than you think)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (NOT THE FAKE KIND IN THE BOTTLE, BUY A WEDGE)
  •  1/4-ish cup finely chopped onion. If you go as much as a 1/2 cup it’s… oniony.

My recommendation is to build the sauce first to give the flavors time to meld. In a big ol’ pot (I use a Dutch oven), saute the onion in a tablespoon or so of olive oil on medium heat until it browns a bit.

A little tip. I tend to chop both the onion for the sauce and the onion for the meatballs at the same time. For the meatballs, it should be as finely chopped as you can get it, or you end up with big chunks in rather small meatballs. I use a chopper I’ve had for about 15 years that gets the onion very small, very quickly. I checked to see if you can still get them, and you can. At the ‘Zon here, or at BBB here. It works for bell peppers and carrots, too. Not so much for celery though…

Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to simmer–if not, it will burn! Not that know anything about that. Ahem.

And look! You can use the aluminum can for a spoon rest!

Once that sauce is going, you can mix all the meatball ingredients. I’m sure there is a technique to making meatballs, but I just roll them into little ball about an 1 inch or 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place them slowly and gently into the sauce so it doesn’t splash back on you. Not that know anything about that, either. Ahem.

Another little tip. I mentioned above not to use the Parmesan cheese that comes in the plastic container. I’m going to reiterate that here. I’m not sure it’s cheese. That doesn’t mean it’s not yummy sprinkled on top of your spaghetti, but for purposes of the meatballs, I recommend a wedge of real Parm (it’s only about $2-$3 if you buy a cheap brand, which is just as good as the $$ stuff, in my opinion) and a Microplane. Now, a Microplane is a specialized tool, and you can absolutely use a real grater instead. But for zesting citrus and grating real Parm, it’s lovely. It’s also an indulgence–mine was a gift. So put it on your Christmas list!

Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for at least 30-35 minutes. Longer is even better to really let the flavors meld. Stir it every now and again to prevent sticking. Serve over noodles, sprinkle with a bit of fresh chopped parsley for garnish, add some garlic bread on the side, and voila! Dinner is served.