Spaghetti and Meatballs
Jim Tuttle – Mount Dora Historic Inn
Recipe type: Entree
Ingredients for Meatballs
- 3 cups of day-old Italian sandwich bread, crust removed and cut into cubes
- Filtered water to soak bread in (I used whole milk instead)
- 1¼ pounds ground (I used ground round) beef
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup hand-grated quality parmesan cheese
- 1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped to yield ¼ cup—packed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil (do not use virgin or extra-virgin olive oil for sautéing or frying)
Ingredients for Sauce:
- 1 lb of spaghetti (I used linguine), cooked al dente in salted water—do not add oil to the water (your sauce will slide off of your pasta); instead continuously stir your pasta for the first 2 minutes and then every minute or so thereafter, this will prevent your pasta from sticking.
- 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 green pepper diced
- 1 head of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot peeled and finely grated
- ¼ cup packed chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
- Whole basil leaves, for garnish
- ⅓ cup of finely hand-grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup olive oil (not virgin or extra-virgin)
Method for meatballs:
- Prep a cookie sheet with tinfoil to place the meatballs on. This is for transportation not cooking.
- In a shallow bowl, soak the bread cubes in enough water (or milk) to cover.
- Remove the bread cubes and squeeze by hand to remove excess moisture—don’t mash them though.
- In a small bowl whisk the eggs until smooth.
- Add your salt, pepper and garlic to the eggs; then, allow to sit for 5 minutes to infuse—whisking occasionally.
- In a large bowl, form the beef to the shape of the bowl.
- Add the bread, cheese, parsley and egg mixture; then, mix by hand to “work” the bread into meat.
- Moisten your hands with a little water and shape the mixture into 14 to 16 meatballs. You are looking for a meatball that is a little larger than a golf ball; but, according to Rina her father liked them the size of a tennis ball—I think that’s a little too big.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil over low-medium heat for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Turn up the heat to medium and start adding the meatballs, working in batches so they have room to cook.
- Cook until they are lightly golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes per batch.
- Serve warm or at room temperature
- Note: Italians generally don’t serve their meatballs with sauce or pasta; at least not in the same dish. However, I asked Rena to give me a recipe for sauce so I could have it with the pasta and the meatballs…I know it’s not traditional; but, I’m Irish. So here we go…
Method for sauce:
- In a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt—cook until soft and lightly golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes—do not burn the garlic, very bitter.
- Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 to 7 minutes more, until the carrot is very tender.
- Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often.
- Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes the sauce should be fairly thick at this point.
- Adjust seasonings (salt).
- Place pasta in bowls (pasta should always be served straight from the pot of salted water and drained only slightly; so, there is a little timing to this dish. Sauce can always sit a bit—just cover it; but, pasta should never wait).
- Place a few meatballs over the pasta and ladle the sauce over the top.