Sunday, November 23, 2008

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Source: The New Best Recipe

This was my first dish from the cookbook and it HALFWAY did not disappoint. The meatballs were the bomb--very light and tasty. It was the sauce that confused me. For my tastes, meatballs should be accompanied by a sweet sauce to balance the meaty flavor, and my sauce had an almost tomato paste flavor to it. Hmmm. I am wondering if I had a bad batch of crushed tomatoes, or if I should have added some sugar to cut down on the acidic taste. The recipe says to dump out the vegetable oil after frying the meatballs, and then add in the olive oil to the same pan to make the sauce. If you also like a sweeter sauce, my suggestion would be to make the tomato sauce in a separate pan from the meatballs.



2 slices of white bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces
1/2 cup of buttermilk or 6 tablespoons plain yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons of whole milk
1 pound of ground meat, preferrably 3/4 pound of ground chuck and 1/4 pound ground pork
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 large egg YOLK (no whites)
1 small garlic clove, minced fine or pressed through a garlic press
3/4 teaspoon of salt
Ground black pepper
1 to 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable oil for frying

Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced fine
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
Salt and ground black pepper
1 pound of spaghetti
Parmesan cheese for serving

1. For the meatballs: Combine the bread and buttermilk into a small bowl. Mix and let sit for 10 minutes, mashing occasionally with a fork, until a smooth paste is formed.

2. Place the ground meat, cheese, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Add the bread-buttermilk mixture and combine until evenly mixed. Shape 3 tablespoons of the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatball. (Use a light touch--if you compact the meatballs too much, they become dense and hard. And, as I found, if you are TOO light-handed, they will be hard to turn over in one piece. Balance, people, balance.) You should have about 14 meatballs when done.

3. Pour the vegetable oil into a 10 or 11 inch saute pan to a depth of 1/4 inch. Turn the heat to medium high. After several minutes, test the oil with the edge of a meatball. While the oil sizzles, add the meatballs in a single layer. Fry, turning with tongs several times, until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Regulate the heat as needed to keep the oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer the browned meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot.

5. For the sauce: Discard the oil in the pan, but leave behind any browned bits. Add the olive oil and garlic and saute, scraping up the browned bits, just until the garlic is just golden, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in the basil and salt and pepper to taste. Add the meatballs and simmer, turning them occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Keep warm over low heat.

6. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta to the boiling water and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until al dente, drain, and return to the pot. Ladle several large spoonfuls of sauce (without the meatballs) over the spaghetti and toss until well coated. Divide the pasta among individual bowls and top each with a little more tomato sauce and 2 or 3 meatballs. Serve immediately, topping with Parmesan if preferred. Enjoy!

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