Real Live Spaghetti and Meatballs

I coulda been a food blogger. Note I did not say shoulda. I am a talented cook for sure but I think my true calling is with words. Least I hope so. However, there was a post of mine last summer—Hospitality Lost and Found—that was positively delicious. I had a HUGE response to it and many folks requested the recipes.
            So I thought, I can do this. I can food blog, or whatever the politically correct phrase is. I said that about this time last week but now I sit at my computer before you, head hung in shame. Heart full of humility. Yellow streaks on my chin.
            Food blogging is hard, people. Especially the taking pictures part. I pretty much inhale oxygen at that. In fact, I’m still in the process of trying to figure out whether or not to use the blurry pictures.  
            Due to the stress I encountered during this process (But really, nothing a wee crystal glass of Limoncello can't fix.), I don’t plan to food blog often. Since I like to finish what I start (No, I don’t. That’s a lie. Ask my family.) I will share a couple of blogposts with the recipes for the foods mentioned in Hospitality.
           
Today I am proud to present REAL LIVE SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS. This recipe is from my one hundred percent I-talian ma-in-law. I can pretty much guarantee you will totally wow your family and friends if you take the time to make this meal. The cool thing is, if you don’t have a ton of people over, you will have lots of sauce and meatballs to spare and both items freeze just fine.  Or, you can invite loads of folks over for supper and have no leftovers but several very happy, super impressed, full-as-a-tick-on-a-bear's-back diners.
 
Sauce
Extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs. chuck roast, cut in 1 ½ ” chunks
1 (12 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 small onion, peeled with ends removed
LOTS of garlic cloves, 6 maybe, crushed
Herb bouquet tied with kitchen twine to include:
1-2 sprigs each of parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary
1 bay leaf
Salt (I typically use 1 tablespoon added 1 teaspoon at a time, stir and taste, etc.)
Fresh ground pepper, 30-50 grindings
Water
1 jalapeno or banana pepper (Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t add much heat.)
Meatballs (recipe down below)
Pasta
(I make homemade pasta but you don’t have to. I would recommend purchasing FRESH pasta though. It really is a lot yummierJ)
Parmesan or Romano cheese, freshly grated
 
-In a large, heavy pot over medium high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil until it shimmers (Oooh, shiny!). Add meat hunks (18-ish at a time). Do not crowd meat or it will steam, not brown. Turn after a few minutes. Remove to plate. Continue with rest of meat cubes then return all cooked meat to pot along with accumulated juices.
 -Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT for water, jalapeno, and meatballs.
  -Now for a fancy schmancy cooking technique. Fill each empty tomato product can once with water. Pour the water into the pot. Stir well.
 -Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat and partially cover. Simmer 1 ½ hours.
-Add the whole jalapeno to sauce. Do not cut it or slit it in any way or you WILL add heat to your sauce.
-Now add the meatballs. Stir gently. Partially cover again. Simmer 1 ½ hours longer. Stir every 30 minutes if you think about it.
-When your sauce has finished cooking, remove and discard the whole onion, the whole jalapeno, the bayleaf, and the herb bouquet.
 
To serve (and this is kind of a duh thing), cook the pasta to your liking. Drain. Scoop a pile of pasta onto each plate. Top with a ladleful of sauce, one or two meatballs, and a couple of meat chunks. Grate fresh Romano or Parmesan (or Asiago, or Fontina, whatever you love) over the sauce. Place in front of a drooling diner along with a fork. Otherwise it gets really messy really fast.
 
Note: The first time I ate this sauce at my in-law’s house I thought, “My! It’s quite runny.” Now I love it. But if you prefer a thicker, more viscous sauce (I love the word viscous, don’t you?), let the sauce simmer for that second hour and a half without the lid. Lots of water will evaporate and this will thicken the sauce.
Note: I had a boss who told me a chef friend of his swore by adding one pork chop to the sauce. If you try this, let me know how it turns out please.
 
Meatballs
¾ c. breadcrumbs
2 T. water
1 t. salt
¼ t. pepper
¼ t. fennel seed (optional)
Parsley, snipped, maybe 2 T. (optional)
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 egg
1 lb. ground beef
 
-In a large bowl (I like to use my Kitchenaid mixer, aka “Big Mama Mixer."), combine all ingredients EXCEPT the ground beef.
 -Add the ground beef. Stir (or run mixer on low) until everything is mixed well.
-Shape into 1 ½” balls (For uniformity purposes, I use a measuring tablespoon to scoop the meat mixture.)
-Place the meatballs on a plate until all of the meat mixture is used.
 -Drop meatballs into simmering sauce at the 1 ½ hour point. Yes, they will be food safe (if your sauce has a true simmer going on). This will give them a soft,  delicate texture plus, you'll have fewer dishes to wash afterward. However, feel free to bake the meatballs on a sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes before adding to the sauce if that makes you feel better or, if you like a little bit of a crust on your little roly-poly guys.
-Note: This recipe yields about 28 meatballs. Consider doubling your meatball recipe because everyone ADORES meatballs!
-Another note: If you have a mortar and pestle, grind the fennel seed before you add it to the meatball mixture. It really ups the flavor!
 
Still to come:  Real Live Focaccia and other pre-spaghetti treats, easy make ahead side dishes served at the Italian Feast, and the "Sunday items" mentioned in Hospitality Lost and Found.

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