Meatballs Anyone?

Whenever I wish to express my devotion and love towards My Pirate, I make him meatballs.  It’s just that simple.  My Pirate sans Super Charlie has really rocked the projects on the house and our vehicles these past couple of weeks. And I’m grateful.  Sure, he isn’t strong in the sweet talking department, but when it comes to acts of love, he’s got it nailed.  For instance, as I was putting together a blog post this week, he vacuumed.  Vacuumed!  I know, ladies, he’s all mine. 

So, with the vacuuming and projects in the forefront of my mind, I made My Pirate his favorite meal and I threw in a bottle of good red wine.  And then, I invited My Kid too.  We clinked our wine glasses together, toasting our new family member, Barnaby, who we lovingly refer to as The Nose-biter.  Our Nose-biter made the rounds sitting on our feet and chewing on his toy, while The Assistant, our dog Sadie, supervised his behavior and nibbled on bites of crostini.

We spun the sauce dressed pasta around our forks and smiled as the tender meatballs melted in our mouths.  And My Kid stared longingly at the last meatball in his bowl and said, “I just can’t do it…too full...but I wish that I could.”  And I knew exactly how he felt.    

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Adapted ever so slightly from Molly Wizenberg in Bon Appetit

In this recipe, Molly Wizenberg brilliantly melds her riff on Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato butter onion sauce with the meatball recipe from the restaurant Café Lago in Seattle.  The tomato sauce is sumptuous and the meatballs are tender and herby. The results magically exceed the ingredients.

I find this recipe to be a wonderful guide that works well with improvisation.  I add a parmesan rind to the sauce to add flavor.  And the meatballs work well with different meats and herbs.  Note:  The sauce and meatballs also freeze beautifully for a last minute party.  

Tomato Butter Onion Sauce
Slightly adapted from Marcella Hazan

  2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes pureed in blender
  8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1 large onions peeled, halved through root end
  1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt
  pinch of red cayenne powder
  parmesan cheese rind

Place pureed tomatoes in stockpot and add the onion, butter, salt, cayenne, and cheese rind.  Turn the heat to medium.  When the sauce starts to burble, drop the heat to low.  Cook for one hour and fifteen minutes.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings.  With a pair of tongs, remove the onion. 

  1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from French bread or baguette, crust and all
  1/3 cup milk
  8 ounces ground beef—I used veal last night
  8 ounces ground pork
  1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese
  1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley—you can substitute in some basil
  1 teaspoon salt
  pinch of cayenne
  pinch of red pepper flakes
  2 large eggs
  2 large garlic cloves, pressed
  1 pound spaghetti
  Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)

In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and milk together.  Sit aside for ten minutes.

In a large bowl, break the pork and beef into small chunks.  Add the ground parmesan and parsley.

Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.  Add in the garlic, salt, cayenne and red pepper flakes.  Pour over the meat mixture. 

Add the milk soaked breadcrumbs to the large bowl of meat and combine all of the ingredients using your hand.  Extend your hand like a claw, keeping your fingers firm and quickly mix the ingredients.  Be careful not to over-mix.

Then place the large bowl in the fridge for one hour. 

Shape meat into golf sized balls.  Then, place the meatballs into the slightly simmering sauce.  Cover the pot with a lid.  Poach the meatballs in the sauce for fifteen to twenty minutes.  Fish a meatball out of the pot and sample with your loved ones. 

Add pasta to boiling water and cook until it’s just tender. 

Remove meatballs from the pot.  Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to dress the pasta.  Spin the pasta into bowls with your favorite set of tongs and place the meatballs on top.  Add more Parmesan to taste. Serve to your favorite people and smile.