Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Recipe loosely adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa


For the meatballs:
- 1/2 pound ground veal*
- 1/2 pound ground pork *
- 1 pound ground beef *
- 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons italian parsley, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, minced (sweet onion preferable)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, beaten
- Vegetable oil
- Olive oil
- Fresh or dried herbs (optional- thyme/oregano/red pepper flakes would be good additions)

*You should be able to find ground beef/pork easily, so if you can't find the veal it's not a big deal. I was able to get all three from a local butcher. I've heard that whole foods has all 3 meats ready to go in one package too, which is a great time saver.

For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
- 3 teaspoons garlic, minced
- 1 cup red wine, preferably the one you will be drinking with dinner
- 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (San Marzano preferable)
- 4 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade
- 1 head garlic, roasted *
- Kosher Salt/Pepper to taste

* To make roasted garlic, cook peeled garlic cloves in olive oil over very low heat until soft. The oil should barely cover the cloves. Be sure not to burn the garlic during this process. Save the remaining olive oil to use in the recipe where called for.

For serving:
- Spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- Cubed fresh mozzarella (optional)
- Fresh foccacia or garlic bread


- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion cook until translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Set aside and let cool.
- Soak fresh breadcrumbs in milk until ready to use.
- Place dry bread crumbs, soaked bread crumbs, herbs, sauteed garlic/onion, parmesan, salt/pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 1/2 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine with a fork. It's important that the meat is added last to avoid overmixing.
- Add the ground meats, and combine very lightly with a fork. You may use a spatula for folding, but be gentle.
- Test out the meat for seasonings. To do so, form one small meatball, and in a small skillet, heated with oil, brown the meatball on all sides. Taste for seasonings, and re-season the meatball mixture as necessary.
- Place mixture in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow for easier shaping.
- Have a bowl of water nearby. Wet your hands before rolling each meatball to allow you to shape better without overworking the meatballs. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into the desired size meatballs (I make them a little larger than an inch, resulting in about 40 meatballs). Roll the meat lightly between the palms of your hands so that it holds together but is not too firmly compacted.
- Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil (about 1/4 inch) into a large skillet. The skillet should be large enough to make your sauce in afterwards. Heat the oil over medium heat.
- In batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides, turning very carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs.
- Remove the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Note that if the brown bits leftover from the meatballs starts burning to a crisp black, clean out your pan with a damp paper towel half way through the process. You want to end up with caramelized brown bits to make your sauce, but not completely burnt bits (which will ruin your sauce).
- Once all meatballs are browned, carefully discard the oil but leave all juicy brown bits. This will flavor your sauce.
- For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook.
- Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
- If your meatballs weren't fully cooked during the browning process, return the meatballs to the sauce at this time, and simmer on the low heat for about 25 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. If your meatballs were cooked, simply simmer the sauce on low heat until it has thickened.
- Mix in roasted garlic cloves and fresh basil (and meatballs to warm through if not already in there).
- Serve with spaghetti and fresh parmesan, and enjoy! Throw in some cubed, fresh mozzarella too!