Essentials: Spaghetti and Meatballs

It isn’t easy to write about recipes week after week and keep your energy level high and your judgment accurate. The accepted wisdom is that readers will stay with you only if you give them a picture and a story, preferably one whose ending is that this recipe for [food] is The. Best. Ever. (Disaster stories are good, too, but who wants to provide a steady stream of those?)

I’ve been burned more than a few times by recipes that bloggers lavishly hailed as amazing but that in my kitchen (my fault?) were only so-so. I’m forgiving, though, because the successes are worth it, and because I know that people are just doing what they have to do to keep cooking and writing. All these peeks into people’s kitchens and lives make up for any number of recipes that don’t quite deliver.

This is my longwinded way of saying that I try to be disciplined and I try to keep my feet on the ground—I don’t say this kind of thing often, but Ina Garten's recipe for spaghetti and meatballs is The. Best. Ever. I know, I know, your grandma’s, your great uncle’s…I don’t care.

This recipe for pure comfort and satisfaction and greedy gobbling makes me feel a little less deprived when I contemplate the fact that there’s no sheaf of family recipes for me to inherit. As far as I’m concerned, this is the Platonic ideal of delicious, unsophisticated spaghetti and meatballs, not just the best I’ve ever made but—I’ll say it—the best I’ve ever eaten.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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Essentials: Spaghetti and Meatballs

About This Recipe

Yield:6
Rated:

Ingredients

  • For the meatballs:
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs (made from 4 slices, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
  • For the sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For serving:
  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Procedures

  1. 1

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

  2. 2

    Pour equal amounts of vegetable and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4 inch. 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.

  3. 3

    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, salt, and pepper.

  4. 4

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

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