Inconvenient Hospitality AND Easy Feed-a-Crowd Meatballs and Cheater Tomato Sauce with Pasta
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I grew up in a home where my parents entertained pretty frequently. We always had people in our house for my dad’s job, or church fellowship, or just because my mom, who is a natural hostess, invited someone over that night. My mom has always impressed me with how she can entertain in a pinch and everything was always wonderful. Someday I will grow up to be like my mom. She was a Pinterest mom before that was a “thing” and she came by it naturally from my grandmother. It also might be an Army wife thing. One of my mom’s many gifts is hospitality and generosity.
Thankfully, this has all resulted in tons of impressive but quick dinners, appetizers, and sides that never fail. Go Mom!
I love to cook and I love to entertain, although I am not as good as my mom at hosting and my “skills” in hospitality have progressively worsened after I had kids… oh well. I’m working on it.
Hospitality is a spiritual gift for some and for others, it seems like a nightmare. Even if you enjoy it, sometimes hospitality is inconvenient. A dear friend and mentor of mine once challenged me to allow myself to be inconvenienced. She urged me to intentionally change my attitude about serving others when it seemed to push me outside my comfort bubble. She challenged me to open my heart to opportunities that seemed to cause more work or interruption in my day and see how the Lord worked through it to minister not only to me, but to allow myself to be used in those situations to serve others and be hospitable.
Here are a few verses to meditate on:
- 1 Peter 4:9 (ESV) – “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
- Romans 12:13 (ESV) – “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
- Hebrews 13:2 (ESV) – “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Some of these are talking about the serving the body of Christ as a whole, but the idea here is serving others and having a right heart about showing love even in the midst of inconvenience in your day, or all the stress or the hours of clean up.
I want to encourage you to look for ways to serve not only other fellow members of the church, but your community as well. This might even look like being helpful or “hospitable” to a fellow mom at a park you usually go to (anyone ever forget the diaper bag?!), maybe it looks like offering to run an errand for someone, or taking a meal. Truly, I think our challenge here is looking for opportunities to serve with a willing heart outside of our comfort bubble or our plan for the day, however that may look in your life.
You never know when serving someone, even in a seemingly small way, is “entertaining angels” or helping to further God’s Kingdom.
All that being said, every once in awhile we just need to make a meal that tastes good but doesn’t require an all-day production. Sometimes family pops over for dinner unexpectedly, or maybe you decided to invite that new person at church over, or bring something to the family down the street going through a rough time. Usually, (or if I really plan ahead) I go to the crock pot for some of my favorite feed-a-crowd deliciousness but sometimes I don’t have time for a crock pot meal to cook.
Here is a great meal that strikes a nice chord between homemade and super convenient.
Behold: Homemade meatballs, tomato sauce and pasta.
This can be easily doubled or tripled for either a big group or to freeze. My kids love these so I usually have a bag in the freezer that I can use for a quick lunch (or to feed an impromptu dinner guest).
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground Italian Sausage – any kind you like, I use sweet or mild for the kids
¾ cup Italian breadcrumbs (In a pinch I’ve also used panko, but increase seasonings by at least a tsp each if you use unseasoned crumbs.)
2 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp each of the following:
- Dried oregano
- Dried thyme
- Dried basil
1 Tbsp of your favorite Italian seasoning
Optional: fresh snipped basil
1 box of penne or spaghetti pasta
What’s more cheater and delicious than a good jarred sauce? Buy two, or get one jar of your favorite sauce and one can of diced Italian tomatoes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. .
Dump all the ingredients (except the sauce and pasta) into a bowl and mix with your hands just until well-combined. Don’t over-mix or your meatballs will get tough. Tip: mix using your fingers, don’t “knead” the meat.
If the meat mixture seems too dry (if it’s really crumbly and not coming together into balls), add about 1 tsp of olive oil at a time to gain the right consistency.
Grease a large cookie sheet or two depending on the size of your meatballs. Roll them into anywhere from about 1-inch to 2-inch balls. Make smaller ones for it to stretch further; big ones are fun for meatball sandwiches.
Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes on the middle rack.
Use it all now or freeze it for later
If you are using them right away, dump the whole tray (drippings and all) into a pot of your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce. I recommend two standard jars for this, or one jar and one 14 oz can of Italian diced tomatoes. If you are feeling fancy, you can even make your own sauce, you know, with all your free time ;).
Let it simmer together for at least 20 minutes, or up to an hour on low. Season to taste and serve with cooked pasta!
I like to use a box of penne with this. Toss it in the sauce and meatballs and throw a handful of shredded mozzarella or some fresh chopped Italian parsley on top for a quick delicious meal that feeds a large group.
Serve with some crusty bread and a salad (even a bag-o-salad). It’s a wonderful hearty meal everyone will love.
Again, these meatballs freeze great and they are pretty forgiving on measurements. If you make them ahead, then just add them cold to the sauce and heat together on medium until it’s all heated through.