Monday, March 31, 2008

On Top of Spaghetti

That I love my kids' school is a great comfort. That I can sign them out for lunch mid-week is a great joy. That my oldest recently chose, instead of a restaurant, to come home and eat spaghetti with me is probably the biggest reason I'm writing this blog. My kids like my food, and I like the idea of having it all on record for them.

I love having a big lunch followed by a smaller dinner. Spaghetti and Meatballs is an easy lunch to prepare since I make three pounds of meatballs a few times a year and reserve them in the freezer. They cook up very nicely straight out of the freezer - I just add my house tomato sauce and some shaved Grana Padano (a super nutty Parmesan-type cheese). Here's how...

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Print recipe only here

1 # lean ground beef (96/4)
1 # lean ground pork
1 # lean ground veal
Fresh parsley

I pick up the beef at Trader Joe's and the pork and veal at Whole Foods.

Making Meatballs
In a large bowl, lightly beat:
2 eggs

Add and incorporate:
2-3 T milk (nonfat is fine)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

In 1-2 T olive oil, sauté over medium heat:
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

Sauté for a few minutes, until onions soften. Set aside to cool.

Add to the mixing bowl:
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2-3 t finely chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1-2 t kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Add the meat and onions to the mixing bowl and combine everything well. It's easiest to roll up your sleeves and get into it with your hands.

Form the meatballs to desired size and transfer to a baking sheet (reserving some to cook fresh that day). When your baking sheet is full wrap it well in plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer. In 24 hours, transfer the meatballs from pan to a Ziploc freezer bag.

To cook frozen meatballs:
Preheat a nonstick pan on medium heat. Briefly sauté a clove or two of garlic and a pinch of chili flakes. Add frozen meatballs and brown all over. Add 1-2 cups tomato sauce (see below) or tomato puree and simmer uncovered - or loosely covered - until cooked through, 20-25 minutes.

To cook fresh meatballs:
Same instructions. Simmering time will be more like 5-10 minutes.

Essential Tomato Sauce
Print recipe only here

Food mill or Cusinart
28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes. I only buy Muir Glen.*
Olive oil
Fresh garlic
Chili flakes

Puree tomatoes in a food mill. If you don't have a food mill, you can spin them in a food processor.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2-4 T olive oil over medium heat. Add:
2 cloves garlic, smashed a bit
pinch chili flakes

Let the garlic brown gently on both sides.

Add the pureed tomatoes to the saucepan.

Simmer gently for about 15 minutes. The sauce will change in color from red to an orange.

Add kosher salt, to taste and serve. You can also add another tablespoon of good olive oil right here at the end. It finishes the sauce quite nicely.

*Whole peeled tomatoes that you puree yourself is not the same thing as canned pureed tomatoes. Don't buy the latter - this sauce depends absolutely on whole tomatoes. (I think the product difference is that the canned puree is cooked and more concentrated.)

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