There are some foods where the recipes were just plain different a century ago than what they are now. Spaghetti is one of those foods. Modern marinara sauce recipes often call for basil and oregano, but those spices are seldom seen in old recipes.
I decided to make a hundred-year-old recipe for Beef Balls with Spaghetti. The recipe for the sauce called only for tomatoes, green pepper, onion, parsley, water, and salt. I had my doubts about the recipe, and worried that it won’t be spicy enough.
I worried needlessly. This recipe was a hit.
My husband said, “This spaghetti is great. It reminds me of the spaghetti they served when I was in elementary school. Mom never made spaghetti, and this was my favorite meal at school.”
Here’s the original recipe:
And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks. (I made this recipe entirely on top of the stove. I couldn’t figure out why the 1919 recipe calls for doing part of the cooking in the oven.)
Beef Balls with Spaghetti
1 28-ounce can tomatoes (or use a 1 quart jar of tomatoes)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped + 1 teaspoon onion, grated
2 bunches parsley, chopped
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt + 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons shortening or cooking oil
1/2 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350° F. To make sauce, put tomatoes, green pepper, 1 chopped onion, parsley, water, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hour. Remove from heat, cool slightly, then puree.
While the vegetables are cooking, combine ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon grated onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl, then shape into 12 balls each approximately 1-inch in diameter. Put shortening or oil into a skillet, and heat. Add the beef balls, and cook for 3-5 minutes, then gently roll over. Roll several times until browned on all sides.
Put spaghetti sauce back in sauce pan, add beef balls. Using medium heat bring to a boil; reduce heat and gently simmer for 45 minutes while stirring occasionally.
Beginning about 15 minutes before the sauce will be finished, cook spaghetti according to package instructions.
To serve, remove sauce from heat, and take beef balls out of the sauce. Add spaghetti and parmasen cheese to the sauce, and lift with a fork until well blended. Add meatballs. Serve immediately