Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spaghetti & Meatballs

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When I was younger, my mom graced our dinner table with all sorts of ethnic food, mainly dishes of Filipino and Chinese cuisine. If I wanted something other than ethnic dishes, my mom would make a special event of going out for 'American' food... even for spaghetti and meatballs. Where would we go? Olive Garden! (Yes, I'll admit it's a guilty pleasure of mine... so what?!)

But when the budget was tight, my parents would attempt to cook American fare at home. Let me just say that their attempt wasn't always deliciously successful. For example, going to the grocery store to gather the ingredients for spaghetti and meatballs was always a fun experience. What dried pasta do we get? Which jarred pasta sauce is good - Ragu? Prego? Or should we just use ketchup? Quick, someone grab some frozen meatballs from the freezer... and a package of hot dogs!

Then once we get home, the chaos begins. Watching my parents cook American fare was sometimes painful because it required the use of ingredients that they weren't familiar working with. Sometimes even the use of pots and pans would cause confusion. In fact, when my dad made spaghetti and meatballs at home, it would require the use of our large wok. Can you imagine the look of my friend's face when she came over to see my dad tossing spaghetti noodles, sliced hot dogs and a tomato sauce made with ketchup in a wok big enough to fit a small child?! Yes folks... that was what we considered a 'spaghetti dinner' at home at my parents' house.

But times have changed and I've been introduced to good, solid recipes for delicious, American meals. Here's a recipe for traditional spaghetti and meatballs which I got from The New Best Recipes cookbook, a recipe source that I can always count on. And no need to worry... ketchup and hot dogs are not part of this recipe! (Sorry Dad!)

This spaghetti and meatball recipe is pretty straight forward where the tomato sauce is fairly smooth, not too chunky. For additional flavor I added a touch of sweetness with some sugar and a bit of zest with italian seasoning. The meatball recipe is a different recipe which I'll be using in an upcoming recipe- stay tuned!

Spaghetti & Meatballs
recipe adapted from The New Best Recipes


Meatballs:

2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1/2 cup whole milk
1 egg yolk
1 oz parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 lb 'meatloaf mix' or 1/2 each ground beef and ground pork
1- 1 1/2 cups canola oil for pan frying


Place the milk and torn bread pieces in a bowl then mash together with a fork until smooth. Add all the remaining ingredients except the ground beef and ground pork, mash to combine. Add the ground meats and knead the mixture by hand until it's well combined.

To make uniform sized meatballs, use a medium scoop. This recipe yields about 20-25 meatballs, depending on the size of your scoop. If you don't have a scoop, feel free to free form them by making the meatballs about 2 inch in diameter. Place your meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Chill them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and you can even make them up to a day in advance.

Heat the oil in a skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add the meatballs to the pan in a single layer to fry. Turn them to brown on all sides until fully cooked. Place the browned meatballs onto a paper lined plate to soak up any oil and set aside.


Smooth Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
1 pound spaghetti (we actually prefer capellini or angel hair)
freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving.


Before preparing the sauce, bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

To make the sauce, discard the remaining oil from the skillet or saute pan used to brown the meatballs, but be sure to keep those browned bits - they provide some great flavor! Add the olive oil to the pan over medium high heat and when it gets hot, saute the minced garlic. Lower the heat to medium and add the entire can of crushed tomatoes (juices and all) and let it all come to a simmer. As it cooks, it will begin to thicken. Stir in the Italian seasoning, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Add the browned meatballs to the simmering sauce and allow it to heat through for about 5-7 minutes. Once the meatballs are heated through, add the fresh basil and stir.

Add about a tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and then add the dried spaghetti. Be sure to stir to prevent the noodles from sticking. Cook the spaghetti al dente, drain and add it back to the pot. Stir in a few ladles full of the tomato sauce (not the meatballs) onto the pasta and toss a bit to get them lightly coated. Divide the pasta among serving bowls and top with additional sauce and meatballs. Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Mangia!

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