Spaghetti & Meatballs
Rummaging through my semi-quarantined kitchen, I find solace in cooking basic, nourishing meals to feed my children. At this very moment, there’s nothing quite as comforting as lounging around (in my pj’s no doubt) while a beautiful spaghetti sauce simmers away on the stovetop, while I secretly hope it’ll leave a smell-induced-memory-imprint on my family for years to come. Although I’m not reinventing the wheel with my culinary skills by any stretch of the imagination, these days, my cooking reflects an era where patience and simplicity are the anchors that sustain us. And during these surreal times, I can’t think of anything better.
Since pasta somewhat of a stoic staple in our pantry, and ground beef can be found in abundance in our supermarkets, pasta with meatballs ticks all the right comfort food boxes. Double (or triple) the meatball recipe and freeze in portioned containers to save for those rainy days when a good old Netflix marathon renders you too lazy to cook.
Serves 6 to 8
For the meatballs:
- 1 kg ground beef (or half beef, half veal)
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 extra-large egg (or two small), lightly beaten
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small red onion (about two tablespoons), minced
- ¾ cup breadcrumbs or panko
- 1 & ½ cups grated Parmesan Cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste (I use just over 2 full teaspoons of salt and a few turns of black pepper)
- 1 to two teaspoons of fresh thyme and/or dried oregano (feel free to use different spices that you have in your pantry)
- 500 grams pasta cooked to package instructions, or fresh pasta – find my recipe here
*Keep a glass of ice water handy to cool off your hands so they don’t inadvertently “cook” your meat.
Place the meat in a large bowl. Add the Dijon, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, parmesan, spices, salt and pepper.
With your scrupulously clean hands combine all ingredients together, squeezing and kneading the meat so everything is well incorporated.
Pinch a small spoonful of meat into the palm of your hand. Gently shape into a ball. You can make the meatballs as big or a small as you like, just keep in mind that cooking time will vary.
Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. Make sure the tray can fit in your freezer, otherwise you can use a few plates or plastic contrainers. Place the meatballs on a single layer, and freeze for 30 minutes to one hour. This will ensure that the meatballs hold their shape when you drop them into their warm liquid. Once the meatballs are frozen, you can freeze them, well-sealed in plastic bags for up to two months until ready to use.
For the Tomato Sauce:
- Two liters of Tomato Passata or the equivalent in chopped canned or fresh tomatoes
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 1 cup of white wine (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large stockpot, sauté the onion in the olive oil until soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for two to three minutes.
Add the tomato passata, and over medium/high heat, bring up to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to medium low, add the milk, wine (if using), salt and pepper. Continue to cook, partially covered for one hour or until the sauce is thick and luscious. Give it a taste and check for seasonings, adjust if needed (the sauce can also be frozen when cooled, and used as needed). If the sauce is too thin, bring it up to a boil and reduce slightly. If it’s too thick, thin it out with a bit of water.
When you’re ready to serve, drop the meatballs into the sauce, one by one, and continue to simmer until cooked through. Depending on the size of your meatballs, this should take 12 to 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and spoon the meatballs and sauce over the pasta. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and eat imeediately.