There’s nothing more satisfying than a heaping platter of spaghetti and meatballs in a thick rich tomato sauce. It's the perfect Italian comfort food. However, it's not in fact an authentic Italian dish, but an Italian-American adaptation. But who cares? Smaller meatballs are more traditionally Italian, but the stars of this dish are the meatballs, and in this case — size does matter. The robust combination of pork, beef and veal flavoured with fresh parsley, Italian seasoning, breadcrumbs and lots of Pecorino cheese, give these plump meatballs a rich depth of flavour that stands up to even the heartiest tomato sauce. The meatballs are gently pan fried and then braised in the sauce for about half an hour, adding an extra complexity to the thick marinara sauce. Served on a large platter over a mound of perfectly cooked spaghetti, this is a delicious heart warming dish to have in your repertoire, since both the meatballs and tomato sauce freeze wonderfully well, and can be reheated whenever you need a dose of comfort food on a cold winter's evening.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Pecorino
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 1/4 cup fresh white bread crumbs, crusts removed
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
2 tbsp good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
2 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp dried crushed red peeper
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
3 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, parsley, Pecorino, salt, pepper, Italian seasonings, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a large bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork, being careful not to overmix. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs, which will make about 14 to 16.
Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil over medium-high, and very carefully place the meatballs in the oil in batches, and brown them well on all sides, turning them carefully with 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 sauté over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. 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 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, dried crushed red peppers, salt, and pepper.
Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. As the meatballs cook, they will also add complexity to the sauce. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Pecorino. If you're feeling decadent, some warm garlic bread wouldn't go amiss!