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I’ve mentioned my Catholic guilt on here before, but I have to admit that it is somewhat of a theme within this post today. If I offend anyone, I apologize. It’s just that I gave up red meat for Lent and it’s driving me crazy.
These meatballs are fantastic, and not just because I ate them before Lent started and have been gazing hungrily upon these photos ever since. Meatballs are such a wonderfully simple and comforting dish to make, don’t you think? We’ve still got weeks to go until Spring, and a huge bowl of red sauce and meatballs, showered in freshly grated parmesan cheese, is the perfect antidote to the Winter doldrums.
Yet since it is Lent and I chose to give up red meat for the duration, the highlight of my week was came yesterday, when I got to wear my new springtime coat instead of my huge winter one. I had to layer scarves and sweaters underneath, but I wore it! And I didn’t die from the cold! Spring is coming, people! This is what tides me over! Also, exclamation points!
Anyway, now it is Wintertime and Lent. And here’s me, missing red meat and whining about it. For the uninitiated, Lent is a time of 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, when Catholics and other Christians all over the world choose a sacrifice(s) to make. It’s to signify the 40 days Christ spent wandering in the desert, with temptations from the devil at every turn. I am in no way a perfect Catholic, but I do spend my days wandering through New York City, passing the temptation of a dirty water hot dog at every corner. It’s no where near close to true sacrifice, but I suppose it’s somewhere in the far-off vicinity, don’t you think?
At least this isn’t like the year I gave up coffee. I was impossible to be around for the entire 40 days. I had denied myself even decaf, since it’s not the caffeine I was staying away from, but the enjoyment I get from a hot cup of coffee. I love the morning ritual of coffee preparation, the hot steaming cup in my hands, the smell of grinding beans. I tried to drink tea instead, but all it did was make me more impatient for Easter. That first cup of coffee on Easter morning was so welcome and delicious, it nearly made me dizzy.
I’ve been thinking of that Easter morning cup while I plod through Lent this year, dying for a hamburger and trying to remind myself that this is in fact a good part of my faith. I am not a perfect Catholic or even a very good one. I do, however, feel strongly that Lent is a good way to get my heart in order, to straighten myself out, to feel more closer to a faith that I have been struggling with for some time. Catholics these days live in a world where the institution of Catholicism is incredibly troubled (and that’s putting it lightly). People are leaving the faith in droves; as I am writing this we still have no Pope; and the utter horrors of the child abuse scandals within the church rage on, each report sounding worse and worse and a dagger to the heart. I may be just a not-so-good Catholic, missing meat and possibly the bigger picture, but it does feel good to have even the smallest of connections to my faith- no matter my struggles and questions.
Red Sauce and Meatballs Recipe
Red Sauce (Marinara)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced (about one cup)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 8oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
- In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and cook until they have softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so, until very fragrant.
- Add the tomato paste and stir until everything is well combined. Deglaze the entire pot with the white wine, scraping any bits up off the bottom of the pot as you go.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, coarse salt and pepper flakes, and turn the heat to low. Let the sauce reduce about a quarter of an inch, then add the oregano. Let the sauce reduce further until it is very thick and completely coats the back of a wooden spoon. If it thickens too much, thin it out with a little water.
- Serve hot. Will keep in the fridge for about one week.