Thursday, February 12, 2009

Real Spaghetti and Meatballs - Barefoot Bloggers

Real Meatballs and Spaghetti was chosen by Rebecca at Ezra Pound Cake to kick off February for Barefoot Bloggers. I really enjoyed making the recipe, as I do most of Ina's -- not too complicated, normal ingredients, simplified process, and excellent results.

I had to make a few minor substitutions for things I couldn't find at my grocery store, or didn't have in my pantry, but nothing that changed the essence of the dish. No ground veal at my store this week, so I chose ground pork for flavor, and a very lean ground beef to balance the fat ratio. I guess I could have used chicken or turkey in place of the pork, but the pork and beef seemed like the most flavorful and moistest combo.

No seasoned bread crumbs in the pantry, so I successfully added a bit of my own Italian herb blend and made my own. I also used some leftover white hamburger buns, crusts and all, for the fresh bread crumbs. My final substitution was Kraft Shredded Parmesan cheese, instead of grating my own. Oh my, did I just admit to the world that I even buy that green canister cheese? I had it. I thought it might not get as gooey the "fresh" kind when the meatballs were fried. And I was right! Anyway, I always have both kinds of Parmesan cheese -- fresh and the green canister, thank you! -- so I can satisfy every taste at my house.

There are also two items that should not be subbed or changed, to my way of thinking. The freshly ground nutmeg adds a very nice flavor to the meatballs, so it is a key element for me. Also, the fresh Italian parsley is a must. No comparison to the curly stuff, or especially to the dried stuff. Go fresh for the best flavor!

It took two huge skillets -- one non-stick, one not -- to fry the meatballs simultaneously. I was tempted to use a Dutch oven to cut down on the splatter mess from frying, but I didn't want to spend time doing them in batches. The skillet was just big enough for the sauce and the 16 meatballs when I added them for the additional simmer and cook time. By the way, non-stick is definitely the way to go when it comes time to turn the meatballs and brown the other side.

Next time around I would reduce the amount of salt in the sauce -- it was too much for me, and I'm no salt wimp. I'm also tempted to bake the meatballs -- as I normally would -- and drain the fat before adding them to the sauce to finish cooking. However, I will have to give this more consideration, because I think the browned bits of meat left in the frying pan probably enhance the flavor of the sauce considerably.

Ina's original recipe says it serves six, but when I ate just two of the enormous meatballs with my spaghetti, I was stuffed! If I divided 16 meatballs into 6 servings, first of all it wouldn't divide evenly. Secondly, I think it would be more than most people could/would/should eat in one sitting. But wait! That's good news, because I think the extra meatballs would make magnificent meatball subs! I would double the amount of sauce though for subs, because I just think I would want more to sop up with a crusty Italian sub roll.

Add a salad and a little dessert and you have all you need to make a meal with these giant meatballs and sauce, on pasta or rolls. I shared some with my neighbor, made two meals for the two of us, and still had plenty to put in the freezer. Gotta love a recipe that tastes good, makes plenty and doesn't break the bank.

Thanks to Ina for another good recipe that adapts easily to how Cora Cooks!

a la Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook

adapted by Cora Cooks

For the meatballs:

1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. very lean ground beef
1 c. fresh white bread crumbs
1/4 c. dry bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. Italian herb blend
2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c. Kraft shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tbsp. good olive oil
1 c. chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. good red wine (I used a Merlot)
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

1 1/2 lbs. spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 c. warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-in. meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-in.) skillet to a depth of 1/4-in. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning 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 covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 mins. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more min. 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 mins. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 mins., until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan. Serves 6.


Lisa said...

Yours look great!! But I can hear Ina now, "About a 1/2 cup of GOOD parmesan cheese" - she'd probably scold you for the green canister stuff :) LOL. But I'm with you, whatever's easier. And they look just as delicious.

Joie de vivre said...

I found your blog through your picture of your cheese tray on the Barefoot Bloggers site. It looked so pretty, professional, and yet had that easy going French spirit to it.

Cora said...

Lisa, if those meatballs could have been any better with hand-grated Parmesan, I'd have eaten two or three more and gone into "deliciousness delirium."

"Easy going French spirit" is music to my ears - what a kind sentiment! I've just returned from a quick trip to Joie de vivre and I am enchanted - I've put you in my reader and I'll be back again and again.

Thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...

I did use the fresh cheese and it got a tiny bit sticky in the pan, but I love the taste of fried cheese!
I thought this was a really delicious recipe.