Prepare the meatballs: In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of water with the grits, cornmeal, or bread crumbs. Mix to moisten; the grits/cornmeal/crumbs should be damp but not wet. Set aside.
Place the ground chuck in a large bowl. Add the egg, garlic, parsley, grated cheese, salt, and pepper, and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the moistened grits/ cornmeal/ crumbs and mix, first with the spoon and then with your hands, just until the ingredients are combined.
Shape the meat mixture into meatballs about the size of golf balls.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the oil. Working in batches so as not to crowd the skillet, and adding more oil as needed, cook the meatballs until they are browned, minutes. As they are cooked, transfer the meatballs to a plate and set aside for use in the tomato sauce, or cover and refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to make the sauce. The meatballs will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Prepare the sauce: Cut the sausage into 2-inch pieces. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, and brown the sausage on all sides in the oil. Add the minced onion and cook it with the sausage until the onion is soft and light brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Add 1 can of the crushed tomatoes to the pot. Fill the can about one-quarter full with water, swish it around to rinse out the can, and pour the water into the pot. Stir, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining 2 cans of tomatoes, rinsing each can with . can of water as before and adding the water to the pot. Add the sugar, salt, pepper, and basil leaves, and stir to mix. Add the meatballs and stir.
Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, or longer if desired. (I like to simmer the sauce until I see that the oil has risen to the top.) Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
When you are ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions. Then drain, and serve topped with the pasta sauce.
All photographs (c) 2012 by Kelly Campbell.
Recipe from DELICIOUSLY G-FREE, a Ballantine Hardcover by Elisabeth Hasselbeck, (c) 2012 by Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
Photograph (c) 2012 by Kelly Campbell.