Spaghetti and meatballs are a classic Italian favorite. Both are satisfying dish for Sunday dinners and family gatherings. The following recipe uses some classic regional techniques to produce a flavorful, fork-tender meatball and spaghetti.
• 1 red onion
• 1 carrot
• 1 celery stalk
• Fresh chopped garlic (up to an entire head)
• Two 12 to 15 ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes, whole and peeled
• Pepperoncini flakes
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 pound each of ground pork and beef or 2 pounds total of any assortment of ground meat you prefer
• 1 cup stale bread, roughly chopped
• 1/2 cup milk
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 onion
• Italian parsley, chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmigiano
• Sea salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• Pepperoncini flakes
• Olive oil for frying
1) To make the sauce, roughly chop or mince the red onion, carrot and celery stalk to make a soffritto. Add olive oil to a tall, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a Dutch oven) set over medium low heat. When the oil is hot, add the soffritto. Gently cook until the soffritto just begins to brown.
2) Move the soffritto aside and create a “hot spot” in the bottom of the pot. Add another splash of olive oil if necessary. Toss the pepperoncini flakes into the hot spot, erring on the side of mild. Toast the flakes for at least two minutes. Add up to an entire head (yes, an entire head) of minced garlic to the hot spot, reserving some garlic for your meatballs.
3) Stir the garlic, toasting it just until the odor permeates and the garlic is very lightly golden. Transfer the San Marzano tomatoes from can to a bowl, crushing the tomatoes with your hands. Mix the hand-crushed tomatoes into the soffritto, garlic, pepperonici and olive oil.
4) Turn the flame up to medium high. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Turn the flame down to low, and simmer the sauce with the pot lid slightly askew.
5) To make the meatballs, soak the roughly chopped stale bread in milk to rehydrate. Remove the bread from the milk, squeezing the bread to remove excess. Discard the milk. To a bowl add the rehydrated bread and all of the other meatball ingredients, veering toward moderate seasoning when adding salt, freshly ground black pepper and pepperoncini.
6) Mix the ingredients just until incorporated, lest you create gummy, tough meatballs. Shape each handful of meat mixture to a sphere roughly the size of a golf ball. Once shaped, fry the meatballs in a skillet, in olive oil, taking care to brown the meatballs on all sides.
7) Drain the meatballs. Transfer them to your sauce. Cook your spaghetti according to package instructions, removing the pasta a few minutes shy to ensure al dente firmness. Feel free to serve the spaghetti and meatballs one of two ways: Finish cooking the pasta in just enough sauce to dress it, reserving pasta water to prevent any drying.
8) Serve the sauced pasta as a first course and the sauced meatballs on a separate platter as part of the entree. You may also toss the spaghetti and meatballs in the sauce, serving the mixture family style. At table, top the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of fresh herb and another grating of Romano or Parmigiano.