I must admit for most of my adult life I’ve never made spaghetti sauce from scratch. With so many good pre-made sauces on the market, I usually stock up when there’s a sale and (occasionally) doctor it up with some fresh herbs or tomatoes. Can I get an “amen?” Browsing through one of my favorite slow cooker cookbooks – Better Homes and Gardens Year-Round Slow Cooker Recipes – I found a recipe for arrabbiata sauce. I was intrigued because I’d never heard of arrabbiata sauce. After a little research, I discovered that “arrabbiata” is Italian for “angry.” The sauce gets its name from the burn of the crushed red peppers. Most everything about this recipe sounded great, but of course I had to add my own twists to make it more of something I’d want to eat. So I exchanged pancetta for bacon and I added a cup of Cabernet Sauvignon wine to the recipe. I thought if the sauce was going to be “angry,” then being a little “boozy” couldn’t hurt!
Arrabbiata Sauce with Turkey Meatballs
The arrabbiata sauce is extremely easy to make. Your slow cooker does most of the heavy lifting. To start the recipe, I browned the onion, bacon and garlic in a skillet – then transferred the contents to my slow cooker. You add all the rest of the ingredients (except for the pasta and meatballs – those come later!) into your slow cooker and give it a good stir. Set it on HIGH and put on the lid. Walk away for 4 to 5 hours and the sauce will be “perfetto!” About 45 minutes before your arrabbiata sauce is done, you’ll want to start making the turkey meatballs. I used pre-seasoned panko breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning spices, but you can use standard panko breadcrumbs and add in the Italian seasoning by hand. The mixture of the panko, butter and egg help bind the ingredients, and make for a great carmelized “crust” on the outside of the meatballs. I tend to like larger meatballs, so that requires even cooking. The trick is not to rush the browning process, so never go higher than medium-high heat. I don’t make homemade meatballs that often. Usually, I’ll just brown ground turkey into my sauce and make whatever sauce I’m using a meat sauce. But these turkey meatballs were to die for! Well worth the effort. You may want to make a double batch; they freeze well. Cook your pasta according to package directions. I used rotini pasta, but you can easily substitute your favorite pasta or what you have in your pantry. If you’re only having pasta for a meal, I like to use a bowl. It makes it easier to cover the pasta with sauce, without wasting a lot covering the entire length of a plate. Then pile on the meatballs and pour a healthy serving of arrabbiata sauce over it all. Top it with shredded Parmesan cheese and you’ve got a great weekday dinner or weekend lunch that’s good enough for company. I ended up adding Cabernet Sauvignon to this arrabbiata sauce recipe to make it “less angry.” What’s your favorite ingredient to add to spaghetti sauce?
In a skillet, cook the onion, bacon and garlic over medium heat until onion is tender and bacon is browned.
Transfer mixture to a 5-quart slow cooker. Set skillet aside to use when cooking meatballs later.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, oregano, basil, salt, and crushed red pepper. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours (or on LOW for 8 to 10 hours).
Serve over pasta and turkey meatballs. Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
In a large bowl, thoroughly combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, dried parsley, mined onions, eggs, butter, salt and pepper.
By hand, form golf ball-sized meatballs and place in cooled skillet (used when browning onion and bacon mixture earlier). Makes about 16 meatballs, or 2 per serving. Feel free to make your meatballs smaller or larger, based on your preference. But make all meatballs uniform in size so they cook evenly.
Place skillet with meatballs on burner at medium-high heat. Every 5 minutes or so, turn meatballs so that all sides will eventually brown and meatballs will be evenly cooked. Watch carefully and remove meatballs from skillet when done. Set aside to serve with arrabbiata sauce and pasta.
Sauce portion of this recipe lightly adapted from Better Homes & Gardens "Year-Round Slow Cooker Recipes"