This week recipe is all about classic Italian spaghetti and meatballs. I don’t recall seeing many spaghetti and meatballs dishes in Hong Kong when growing up. The most common Italian pasta dishes in HK are creamy seafood pasta and spaghetti with meat sauce. Spaghetti and meatballs was a brand new thing to me when I got to the US. One day I was watching Food Network. Anne Burrell was whipping up these amazing meatballs. They looked pretty easy and irresistible. I just couldn’t wait and made them the next day. Ever since then, I have made this dish again and again. We are impressed every time.
Even though Bryan is not a huge fan of pasta, this is the one that Bryan loves! Why? Because there are tons of meats in it. Those giant meatballs were bigger than golf balls. They were made with a combination of meat, veal, beef and pork. They were seared nicely on a pan and baked in the oven. They were moist, hearty and flavorful. The marinara sauce was chunky, tangy, and sweet, which helps to balance out the rich meatballs. Enjoy this classic Italian dish that grown ups and kids would love!
Spaghetti and Meatballs (Adapted from Anne Burrell via Foodnetwork.com)
– extra-virgin olive oil
– ½ large onion (cut into ¼-inch dices)
– ½ teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 garlic clove (smashed and finely chopped)
– pinch crushed red pepper
– ¼ pound ground beef
– ¼ pound ground veal
– ¼ pound ground pork
– 1 large egg
– ½ cup grated Parmigiano, plus more for serving
– 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (finely chopped)
– ½ cup plain breadcrumbs
– ¼ cup water
– 8 ounces dried spaghetti
– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1/8 pound pancetta (cut into ¼-inch dices)
– 1 large Spanish or sweet onion (cut into ¼-inch dices)
– 2 large garlic cloves (smashed and finely chopped)
– 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum San Marzano tomatoes
- Start with the marinara sauce. Take out all the tomatoes from cans to a large bowl. Pour the juice in another large bowl. Rinse and fill half of 1 can with water. Pour the water into the juice. Remove the stem and seeds of all tomatoes with your hands or small knife. Place the tomatoes in the juice. Set aside.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and pancetta. Cook for 4 – 5 minutes. Add onions. Season generously with salt. Mix well and cook until soft and aromatic, about 6 – 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the tomatoes and juice into the pot. Season with salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook over medium heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and season if necessary. Use half of the sauce right away, and save half for another use.
- In a large pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions, season with salt and cook until soft and aromatic, about 5 – 7 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook for another 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool to almost room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place in the oven.
- In a large bowl, combine the meats, eggs, Parigiano, parsley and bread crumbs with your hands. Add the onion mixture and season generously with salt. Mix well. Add the water and mix 1 more time.
- Shape the meat mixture into balls that are slightly larger than a golf ball. Make about 10 – 12 meatballs.
- Bring a large pot of water (salted) to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain and transfer the pasta to serving plates.
- In a large pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Sear and brown the meatballs on all sides. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. Add them to the marinara sauce. Cook for another minute. Scoop them over the pasta. Top with extra Parmigiano. Serve immediately.
- Marinara sauce can be made ahead.
- For marinara sauce storage, let the sauce cool to room temperature. Store in the fridge for a few days or freeze.
- There is a way to make sure your meat is well seasoned. To test it, you can take a small chunk of meat mixture and shape into a patty. Cook through in a lightly oiled pan. Taste. If it is not flavorful enough, it is missing salt. Add more salt to the meat mixture.
- This dish is great for next day lunch.