Spaghetti and Meatballs
When it comes to making meatballs, most people wing it with a little bit of this and a little bit of that…sometimes they come out perfect and sometimes they don’t. I happen to like a sure thing, so I came up with an easy recipe that yields flavorful, tender yet hearty meatballs every time. You might be surprised to see what’s in them.
For starters, the best meatballs contain not just ground beef, but ground veal and pork as well. Most grocers sell this “meatloaf mix” pre-packaged. It will give your meatballs fabulous flavor.
The other secret ingredient (and here’s where you might be surprised) is water – a little bit added to the mixture makes for very tender meatballs.
Next comes the seasoning…you can’t go wrong with lots of fresh herbs, garlic and Parmesan cheese.
And finally, most recipes call for pan frying the meatballs before adding them to the sauce, but I found that baking them is a whole lot easier, not to mention neater (no oil splattering all over the kitchen, thank you very much) and so much healthier. You’ll feel virtuous when you see how much fat you leave behind on the baking sheet.
If you have a homemade sauce that you like, by all means, use it. I cheat a little here and use a good quality store bought sauce, which cuts down on the cooking time and makes this an easy weeknight dinner.
So here you have it…delicious, dependable Spaghetti and Meatballs. Enjoy!
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Serves 4 (makes about 24 small meatballs)
1 large egg
3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped (plus more for serving)
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup water
1 ½ pounds ground “meatloaf mix” (approximately equal parts ground beef, pork and veal)
¾ cup dried Italian Style bread crumbs (such as Progresso)
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (plus more for serving)
Large jar (32 oz) good quality Marinara sauce, such as Rao’s
1 pound spaghetti
1. Set rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, basil, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic and water. Add meat, breadcrumbs and Parmesan and mix until just combined (your hands are the best tool). Do not overwork it.
3. Using your hands, take about 2 tablespoons of meat mixture (about the size of a golf ball) at a time and gently roll into balls. Place meatballs on ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and use a metal spatula to turn meatballs (they will stick a bit but should release easily when you scrape under them with metal spatula). Put back in oven and cook another 10 minutes, until meatballs are nicely browned.
4. In the meantime, bring the marinara sauce to a simmer in a large sauté pan. Taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary (I usually add a healthy pinch of sugar and freshly ground black pepper). When the meatballs are browned, transfer them to the pan with tomato sauce, leaving the fat behind. Cover loosely with foil and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, until the flavors marry and the meatballs are cooked through. Keep warm until ready to toss with pasta.
5. While meatballs are simmering, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook al dente. Drain, then toss with sauce and meatballs; garnish with fresh basil and serve. Pass the grated Parmesan.