Cooking with Kids: Charlie’s Meatballs

I love cooking with my daughter.  She likes to “help” in the kitchen, and whenever possible, I let her pour ingredients in, or stir something on the stove.  With help, of course!!  We both love reading and cooking.  She loves the Pioneer Woman’s children’s series about Charlie the ranch dog.  All of the books in the series includes a recipe that kids can help with.  Her newest Charlie books is Charlie Plays Ball.  Charlie is her big, lazy basset hound, and in this book he talks about the kids’ favorite sports.  Football, basketball, and soccer.  Charlie admits that his favorite balls are meatballs!  Ree Drummond herself has cooked for kids, and definitely knows a thing or two about pleasing picky ones.  My 4 year old is an incredibly picky one, and finding things that she’ll actually eat is always challenging.

This recipe seemed like something she might actually eat, and seemed like something we’d all enjoy.  We’ve cooked with Charlie before, and she loved it!  One thing that’s on the short list of things my daughter will actually eat is meatballs.  Maybe it’s something about the soft texture (although when I put the parsley in, she was afraid because there were “leaves”).  I’ve also noticed that she loves marinara sauce, and will practically dip anything in it.  Win-win!

unnamed-1 unnamedSo, first Miss Ree’s warning: Be safe! Always cook with an adult.

Don’t touch sharp knives or hot stoves and ovens! And always wash

your hands before and after cooking.

Meatball Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs ground beef

2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ cup bread crumbs

unnamed-2unnamed-3½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

2 eggs

¼ tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, minced

Splash of milk

¼ cup olive oil

Sauce Ingredients

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 28 oz can whole tomatoes

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

¼ tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp sugar

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, minced

8 whole fresh basil leaves, cut into slivers (optional)

2 lbs spaghetti, cooked according to the package directions

Extra Parmesan, for sprinkling


  1. To make the meatballs, combine meat, garlic, bread crumbs, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, parsley, and a splash of milk in a mixing bowl. Mix together well. Roll into 25 1 ½ inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm them up.
  2. To brown the meatballs, heat olive oil in a heavy pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs 8 at a time, turning to brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel after each batch. Set meatballs aside.
  3. Now you will start the sauce in the same pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes or until translucent. Pour in whole tomatoes and crushed tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, sugar, and parsley. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
  4. Add meatballs to pot and stir in gently. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring very gently a couple of times during the simmer.
  5. Just before serving, stir in basil if using.
  6. Serve over cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with extra Parmesean.

Enjoy!!  We sure did.  I ate about 10 meatballs in one sitting, and we used the leftovers for meatball subs.


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