This is one of those dishes that can be quick and dirty if you do it like Dad did, or you can make yourself crazy going scratch with every ingredient. Yes, Dad really used Wonderbread in his meatballs. This was the fifties. And hey, it was whole wheat!
Dad started with a recipe from the old Chicago Tribune “readers’ recipes” column and made it his own. Nowadays I would probably gussy up the marinara sauce with fresh heirloom tomatoes, fresh garlic, fresh basil, homegrown oregano, yadda ya. But this works just fine, takes less time, and presses that memory button in my brain where Dad’s Italian meatballs are stored.
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 slices fresh wheat or white bread, crumbled
1 T dried grated Parmesan cheese
Mix these ingredients very lightly, shape them into 1-1/2 to 2-inch diameter balls, and chill.
Work your meatballs a little longer with your hands and you can skip chilling them. They’ll be tougher, but they won’t be falling-apart tender while they’re browning.
Brown the chilled meatballs in 2T Italian dressing, then remove from the pan.
1 medium onion, chopped
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
1 6oz. can tomato paste
1 C water
pinch dried basil
dash garlic powder
In the pan where you browned your meatballs, saute the onion in the remaining Italian dressing and beef grease. Add the other sauce ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Add the meatballs back into the pan with the sauce. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Serve with your pasta of choice.