Monday, May 16, 2011

Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

I know. Who makes spaghetti and meatballs in April? (I know it's the middle of May. I take a while for this weblogging business.) A wintry, comfort food at its finest - sure, let's make it from scratch. On a Tuesday night. In April. When it's 85 degrees INSIDE your kitchen (have I ever mentioned how much I love DC weather?). But when a craving hits, a craving hits.
I searched high and low for a perfect meatball recipe. Apparently "pillowy and flavorful meatballs" is not the smartest Google search. I'd trust Molly Wizenberg's recipes with my eyes closed, so off to the grocery store I went. Pork, beef, SAN MARZANO tomatoes, lots of Parmesan cheese ... sigh. Now I'm hungry again. Stay tuned for the Garlic Bread From Heaven That Hates Your Thighs.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
adapted (just barely) from Molly Wizenberg at Bon Appetit
Note: You will need an immersion (stick) blender. They are so fun, why don't you have one already?


For the Sauce
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes finely chopped. IMPORTANT NOTE: USE SAN MARZANO tomatoes. I know, they are four dollars a can. But when your sauce is made up of four ingredients, one of which is salt, you must must must use the best. SAN MARZANO SAN MARZANO SAN MARZANO. If your sauce is crap because you used Giant brand tomatoes I don't feel bad for you.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 medium onions, peeled, halved through root end
1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt
For the Meatballs

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French or country-style bread
1/3 cup whole milk
8 ounces ground beef (15% fat)
8 ounces ground pork
1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)

For the Sauce: Combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onions, and salt in large wide pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Everything in your house is going to smell SO GOOD. Remove the onions and save for later. Trust me they are delicious. You can just eat them sliver by sliver if you are me.
Using immersion blender, process sauce briefly to break up any large pieces of tomato (texture should be even but not completely smooth). Season sauce with more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat.

For the Meatballs:
After your sauce has been simmering away happily for a few minutes, start on the meatballs! Combine breadcrumbs and milk in small bowl; stir until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Let stand 10 minutes.

Place beef and pork in large bowl and break up into small chunks. Add 1 cup ground Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper. Here, look: a bowl of meat and cheese.

Whisk eggs to blend in small bowl; whisk in garlic. Add to meat mixture.

Using hands, squeeze milk from breadcrumbs, reserving milk. Add breadcrumbs to meat mixture.

Using hands, quickly and gently mix meat mixture just until all ingredients are evenly combined (do not overmix). Chill mixture at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Moisten hands with some of reserved milk from breadcrumbs, then roll meat mixture between palms into golf-ball-size balls, occasionally moistening hands with milk as needed and arranging meatballs in single layer in sauce in pot. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Put It All Together:
Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Above: pasta in the green pot, meatballs and sauce in the red one. (Duh.)

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.

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