Jumbo Cheesy Italian Meatballs - and Make-Ahead Weekly Menus!

So I'm on this new make-ahead kick and I'm loving it.

I am way too busy at home lately to fully prepare a meal each and every night, and I refuse to serve frozen and/or fast foods to my family so I had to come up with something to bring the chaos level down a notch in my kitchen before I committed some sort of insanity-driven crime.

Thanks to the gym, rep karate, and indoor soccer, I have maybe 25 minutes in the evenings from 5:00 - 5:25 to prepare a meal that will either be eaten by the kids the next day (because they usually have to eat meals from the day before due to schedules) or by the BF and I later that evening when we are home (usually anywhere between 8:00 - 10:00).  Bottom line is that my family life is very very very busy...so I needed to come up with a solution, fast.

I have always been a meal planner, since I like to coupon, and stay on budget, but now I've become much more disciplined.  On Thursdays I plan my meals for the following week, shop on Fridays (or the weekend if I must, but that's a pet peeve of mine) and than prep all meals on Sunday and/or Monday evening which are my only two nights where there is a little more than 25 minutes to spare.

With all that being said, it's quite possible that some of my blog posts will now contain a week's worth of recipes.  Or perhaps I will explain the prep work in one blog, and detailed recipes in the subsequent blogs.  I haven't ironed all of that out yet, just wanted to give a heads up as to what's going on, and how things might change.

Let's move on to meatballs.  This was a wonderful make-ahead meal.  I literally made it ahead of time!  I made the meatballs, but didn't cook them, and I made the sauce and threw it in a jar in the fridge.  When it was time to eat these, threw the meatballs in the oven, simmered the sauce and cooked the noodles all in about 5 minutes of hands-on time (and 25 minutes of oven time).  I did add some more time-saving shortcuts, but thank you to Food Network Magazine for getting me through another hectic evening!

Jumbo Cheesy Italian Meatballs
Meatballs -
EVOO for brushing (I just used parchment paper, see below)
3 1/2c torn stale Italian bread (I used bread crumbs)
1 c whole milk (I used 2%)
2 eggs
2 lbs ground beef
1 small bunch parsley chopped
1/2c shredded Parmesan
1 garlic grated
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
4 bocconcini balls (I made about 8 meat balls, co a whole container of bocconcini balls were needed)
Sauce -
3 garlic sliced
red pepper flakes
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
3-4 sprigs basil
ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 400.  Brush baking sheet with EVOO (I just used parchment paper - less fat, easy clean up).  Pulse bread crumbs in food processor to make coarse crumbs (no need if you already buy them as crumbs!).  Transfer to small bowl and add milk, set aside.  Beat eggs in a large bowl and add next 6 ingredients.  Mix with your hands (I got my daughter to do this - she loved it) to combine.  Add bread mixture and mix until just combined.  Shape meat into 4 balls (I did 8), make indentation and add cheese in the middle, then shape meat around it.  Arrange on baking sheet and bake until browned and firm, 25-30 minutes.  Meanwhile make the sauce - heat EVOO in large skillet over medium-high.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, 1c water, basil, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to boil then reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened, 30 minutes.  Remove meatballs from oven and add to sauce, spooning some sauce on top.  Continue cooking and spooning sauce 6 minutes.  Serve dolloped with ricotta and chopped basil.

I served this over pasta - so good!

Stay tuned for the make-ahead menu plans, can't wait!