Mrs. Regueiro's Plate: Spaghetti & Meatballs

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spaghetti & Meatballs

"Oh, you fancy huh? (repeat a million times because that's the only part of the chorus I remember.....)

Sorry I have this song playing in my head ever since I saw Mary J. Blige perform it with Drake on the MTV music awards. Somehow I related it to making spaghetti and meatballs because this seemed like a fancy version. I have always made meatballs using a plain straightforward recipe - mix some meat (turkey), Italian seasonings, breadcrumbs and an egg. Mix it up and you make a golf size meatball, bake or steam it until cooked -- sounds basic enough right? But something about this classic dish needed a fancy do-over in my recipe index.

Growing up in my house, my mom made her own Filipino version of spaghetti. My mom's Filipino version is typically sweeter made with banana ketchup and sliced hot dogs, and when you're a hungry little kid...anything that your mom makes for dinner is great. I discovered the classic version of spaghetti and meatballs during my young kitchen days. The sauce has been adapted from an original herself, Marcella Hazan, the wonderful butter and onions simmering into a tomato sauce.  Classic dishes do not need much modification or fancy ingredients or crazy methods. There are lots of deep flavors and richness in this sauce and the meatballs are tender and flavorful. Enjoy.

Spaghetti & Meatballs
Adapted from Bon Appetit Oct. 2010
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes in juiced
1 stick unsalted butter
2 medium onions, peeled and halved
1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless sourdough or French bread
1/3 cup whole milk
8 ounces ground beef (20% fat)
8 ounces ground pork
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely ground
1/3 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup basil leaves, chiffonade for garnishment


In a large dutch oven over medium high heat, brown the butter and add the onions and let it cook for 5 minutes. Let the onions soften a bit before adding the tomatoes. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove the onions. (I kept a couple in for a little extra flavor). Using an immersion blender, process sauce until all tomato chunks are gone. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed. (Hold yourself back because you will want to lick the spoon.) Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk. Stir until the breadcrumbs absorb the milk, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef and ground pork together and break it up into small pieces. Add 1 cup of Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir lightly to combine.

In another small bowl, whisk the two eggs and garlic together. Add to meat mixture.

Using your hands, squeeze milk from breadcrumbs, reserving milk. Add breadcrumbs into meat mixture. (If you don't get any milk, add a little bit of milk to your bowl.) Using your hands forming the infamous claw move, quickly and gently mix meat mixture.

Wet your hand with some of the reserved milk, then roll the meat mixture into medium sized meatballs, about 1/4 cup or so. Use a little more milk to moisten hands if needed, and arrange the meatballs back into the dutch oven in a single layer. Bring the mixture to a simmer.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. You can do these ahead of time, and cover and keep them in the fridge. Rewarm before use.

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain.
Using slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to platter. Add pasta to sauce in pot and toss to coat. Divide pasta among 6 plates. Top each serving with meatballs. Sprinkle meatballs with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

**For the best texture, don't overwork the meat mixture and use Parmesan that's ground to a fine powder ( use the processor or the rasp side of a box grater). For more heat, add 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper to the sauce.
Review: Three ingredients make for a simply delectable sauce, and you can a touch of fresh herbs if you wanted it to fancy it up. The meatballs were absolutely tender and the buttery tomato sauce was delicious. I practically cleared my plate and was stuffed pretty. This was one the fanciest versions of spaghetti and meatballs I have ever had. It was a breathe of fresh air to try something classically done. Sorry mom, but I loved your version at one point. Now I'm used to the fancy version. Spaghetti and meatballs are simply delicious and perfect fall comfort food. (Oh, you fancy huh?)

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