I wrote back in September about the Friday Night Meatballs movement– it all started with a piece on Serious Eats that promised to change my life with pasta. The idea was to create a standing casual dinner party that would create community and serve as a social outlet, a sort of secular sabbath. I of course loved the idea immediately and was eager to give it a shot. I didn’t even allow myself to be deterred by the fact that I had never made meatballs before. That first FNM was such a hit that we decided to keep it going, and now, as I type, my house smells like garlic and tomatoes because I have my red sauce simmering on the stove for our FOURTH Friday Night Meatballs. (Some bloggers write posts ahead of time. I just sit down during nap time and write what I can.)
I knew from the start that although a weekly FNM sounds nice, it wouldn’t work for us, because Jon isn’t always off on Friday evenings– and I really think doing it on Friday is key, because it’s not a “school night” and most folks are off the next day, so the FNM can be relaxed, a nice way to ease from work week to weekend, and no one is in too much of a hurry to leave. Last time, we had four toddlers playing so happily together that we let bedtimes be damned and allowed them to play until almost 9 while the grownups chatted. So, for us, FNM has become more of a monthly than a weekly gathering, and that’s fine too.
I figured out that our table most comfortably seats 10 adults, and we can put kids at another table, so we open up our invites to 8 adults besides us and however many kiddos come with. I just throw a post up on my personal Facebook page letting folks a FNM is coming up and the first 8 to claim a seat get one. Usually, this has meant 4 other couples, but singles are absolutely welcome, too. People always ask what they can bring, so I tell one pair to bring bread, another to bring wine, another to bring salad, and another to bring dessert. In the event of singles, more wine or bread is usually a good idea. This leaves me responsible for meatballs, sauce, pasta, and cheese.
I usually make my meatballs (3 lbs of meat plus breadcrumbs, egg, cheese, herbs) a day or two in advance. The day of the party, I make my red sauce (canned tomatoes plus garlic, olive oil, herbs), and then I put the sauce and meatballs in a crock pot so the meatballs get nice and saucy and yummy. This means I can get my kitchen completely cleaned up by the time guests arrive, and at that point, I put 3 lbs of spaghetti on to boil. I personally use FNM as an excuse to do my monthly clean up of bathrooms and floors, but one of the tenets of FNM is that it’s relaxed– you’re not supposed to get super “company clean.”
Our kids go to bed at 7:30 and can be pushed to 8 if they’re having fun, so we usually tell people to come over around 6ish. We pour wine, we warm bread, we boil the pasta, and then we eat family style at our table. Because we just use Facebook to invite the first 8 folks who want to join us, it’s usually an eclectic group, and we have fun laughing and talking. I’ve discovered having a kids’ table goes SWIMMINGLY. They feel like big stuff sitting around their own table, and every kid I’ve ever met will happily eat pasta, maybe even red sauce, possibly even some meatball. It probably helps that they’re usually strapped in their booster seats.
I’ve found that FNM just works really well for us. It’s not a super expensive dinner to feed 10+ folks, and generally costs us less than a sitter and a dinner and drinks out just the two of us would. We get to see a variety of people we love, we enjoy sharing our home and a meal with our friends, and even Etta and Claire know that when I tell them “tomorrow night, we’re doing MEATBALLS” that we’re going to have a great time.
In summary: I’m super thankful writer Sarah Grey gave us this brilliant idea. It’s been great fun, possibly even life-changing.