Italian Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

for the meatballs:

1 lb lean ground beef

1 egg

1/4 cup pizza sauce (I love this recipe)

1/4 cup Kraft Parmesan cheese (see note above)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

for the tomato sauce:

2 teaspoons olive or avocado oil

1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

3 cloves garlic, sliced

2 28-oz cans diced or petite-diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons dried Italian herb mixture

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Fresh shredded Parmesan cheese for serving

1. Heat your oven to 400deg. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it lightly with non-stick spray.

2.Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (I use my hands, and I wear latex gloves). Use a cookie scoop to portion out the mixture and roll into meatballs.

3. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. While the meatballs are in the oven, prepare the sauce:

4. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until it's softened and starting to brown a bit, 5-8 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes (scraping up any browned stuff stuck to the bottom of the pot), vinegar, herbs, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Bring it all to a high simmer, cover and reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

5. Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture to the consistency you want--I like an almost-smooth sauce. OR transfer the mixture to a blender in two batches and blend it to the consistency you want. **PLEASE be super careful if you use a blender--let the mixture cool a few minutes, remove the stopper in the top of the blender lid, and hold a folded towel over the hole before blending.

6. You can use the sauce now, or to give it a nice rich flavor, return the sauce to the pot (if necessary), add in the cooked meatballs and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Serve with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese.

Makes about 24 meatballs with sauce.