November 25, 2012

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

Lack of sleep has put my brain in hibernation mode. Life is good and calm, and happy, and I need a nap, so I have nothing deep or clever to share today. :) I will, however, apologize for my lame pictures; I thought "Of course I have to decorate my spaghetti with cheese!" and failed to notice till just now, that you can't see a darn thing under that cheese. Oops!! Next time I make it I'll replace the pictures for you. Until then, I'll just have to use words to paint my images! And then nap. 

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

3 slices white sandwich bread (without crusts) torn into tiny pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg yolk
1 clove garlic, minced/pressed
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 tsp pepper
oil for pan-frying

8 oz pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair, etc)
2 Tb olive oil
1/2 small yellow or white onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced/pressed
1 can crushed tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and crushed)
1-2 Tb minced fresh basil
1/2-1 tsp dried oregano
a pinch of sugar
a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

Meatballs first! Combine the bread and buttermilk in a bowl, then mash them together until they form a smooth-ish paste.

Combine all meatball ingredients, including bread mixture, in a medium bowl. Mix well, then form into small meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches across, or about 2-3 Tb each. Form them gently, if you press them together too much they will become dense. These will be soft meatballs. Place them on a place while you heat your oil in a large pan (or Dutch oven!) You want enough that the meatballs are about half covered, not submerged or floating. Heat the oil to about 260-275 degrees. (If you don't have a thermometer, you want the meatballs to sizzle when placed in the oil, but not immediately start browning)

When edge of meatball dipped in oil sizzles, add the meatballs in single layer. Fry your meatballs, turning when the bottoms are browned (be gentle when pulling them up, sometimes they stick to the bottom) Place browned meatballs on a paper towel--lined plate; set aside. Repeat until all meatballs are fried.
Time for the sauce!  Heat the olive oil in a large pan. (You can also use the pan you fried in, just discard the oil and leave any little browned bits in. Scrape them up while the oil heats, they add flavor!) Add onions, and cook on medium heat until onions are softened and translucent. Add garlic and cook till garlic is golden, about 30 seconds-1 minute. Add tomatoes, sugar, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. (Start water boiling for your pasta, and add about 1/2 tsp of salt to the water. Add the pasta whenever the water boils) 

Simmer your sauce gently until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I find I generally need very little salt.) Put your meatballs in the sauce, and make sure they're covered.
Stir them in a few times. When your pasta is just barely almost done, drain it and add to the sauce and meatballs. Stir/toss together until the pasta is evenly coated.
Serve with parmesan cheese!
My cheese looks funny because it is very very thin, I grated it with my microplane. Love that little gadget!
You can't tell, (ha!) but there are three beautiful browned meatballs on top of that perfectly coated pasta! These are my favorite meatballs. Spaghetti and meatballs are one of those meals that for years, I so much wanted to like, but they always seemed lacking somehow. These, however, are perfect. In my opinion, of course. :)
They're soft, and juicy, and packed with flavor. I know there is bread (filler) in them, and lots of people swear against that, but I can't tell it's bread. It just makes them softer. The buttermilk adds a little tang, the cheesy is all melty, and frying gives them a delicious crust. You may wonder why there is a mix of meats. Well, beef is pretty lean, and gets dry and dense easily. The pork adds fattiness and flavor, which may sound gross, but trust me, you want it there. And if just using the 1/2 pound bothers you, do what I do, and squish the other halves together and freeze it for my next batch! (Or a batch of Vietnamese Egg Rolls)
Of course, there are plenty of ways you could adjust this: you could bake instead of frying them, add some parsley or other herbs, skip the mix of meats if you don't care much, try some veal or sausage...
I don't know about you, but I hate it when my sauce won't stick to my pasta. When all the sauce slides off and puddles on your plate, and you're left with oddly wet noodles. Bleck. That's why I love tossing this all together, the starch from the pasta makes it all stick, so it is perfectly coated. You could always use your own favorite sauce recipe, or even a jar! Just warm it up and toss together! I like making my own. The freshness of the simple sauce is a great contrast to the meaty fried meatballs.
This is how mine usually looks at the end, I like to break the meatballs up to have a bit with each bite. So there you have it! A classic that will never go out of style. I'm about to fall off my chair, so it's time to say I love you ALL, Good Night! (Good afternoon...?...zzzz)

Shared at the Sunday Showcase and Tasty Tuesdays


  1. I hope you had a great nap!! the spaghetti and meatballs look amazing!!! I love that you use buttermilk - I'm going to try this!
    mary x

  2. This looks freaking awesome to me. I love spaghetti. Yummy!!! I think your pictures look greak because now I'm hungry. :)

  3. Not sure if my COMMENT posted. But to make things short, coz I can't remember what all I said. I mostly said LOVE. Coz this is a dish I love. My pasta loving heart thanks you!xx


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