Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Basics are Always Good - Spaghetti and Meatballs

This picture has nothing to do with this post except that this is a cool Italian bar in North Beach which is the Little Italy of San Francisco and I hate to not have any photos on my post!
I so rarely serve spaghetti that we have to reteach the proper fork twirling technique to the boys each time, which is partly why we don't serve it often. It's just much easier to serve penne so that twirling and the inevitable splattering are not involved.

We have chosen to teach them the more Italianesque way of using the side of of the shallow pasta bowl to help your fork instead of the Mob movie method of using a spoon.  And, with two boys who think eating is a competitive sport because of the ridiculously short school lunch time, we have to keep reminding them that eating only three strands of spaghetti at a time is much more appropriate than clearing out the bowl in a few bites.  So, on the occasion that I pull out the bag of gluten-free spaghetti (a holdover from my gluten-free days that I like over regular wheat pasta) instead of penne, I know it's going to a teaching moment as well as dinner.

My youngest son had been asking me for sometime about making spaghetti and meatballs and upon spying ground turkey in my freezer and the ubiquitous organic diced tomatoes in my pantry, I decided it was time.  There was nothing particularly special about how I made it, it was just really good.  In fact, I really don't know why this was only the second time in 18 years of marriage that I had made it. On second thought, maybe that's why it was good, I don't make it all the time.  Having grown up in the era when Chef Boyardee was the culinary hero, I didn't really know what homemade tomato sauce could really taste like.  I graduated from the boxed dinners and canned ravioli when I struck out on my own and started buying the separate pasta and pre-made pasta sauce.  With a little doctoring and a package of ground beef or turkey that I cooked and seasoned myself, it was definitely an upgrade from the unmarked canned meat sauce that came in the boxed spaghetti dinner (How did anyone think this was okay?)

But it wasn't until I met my sweet friend, D, who was from a Sicilian family and grew up the daughter of a pizza maker in New Jersey.  I tasted her sauce and knew I would never buy a jar again. I have been sworn to secrecy so I will not share her recipe, but I do feature my own recipe in my CWYG - The Basics Recipe Collection which you can quickly download and enjoy along with about 15 other basic recipes.  (Along with each recipe is several varations giving you dinner plans for at least a month.)

So I'll simply give you the meatball recipe and the absolute Italian method of making a pasta and sauce.

CWYG Stats

Veggie Box - nothing this time, this was strictly a pantry/freezer recipe.

CWYG List Items - ground turkey, garlic, onions, Italian seasoning, canned tomatoes, parmesan cheese, eggs, olive oil

Ground Turkey Meatballs
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (or lamb or chicken or beef)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 yellow onion, grated
1 egg
1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
1 Recipe Basic Tomato Sauce
1 lb spaghetti
Additional cheese for sprinkling

In a large bowl, mix the ground meat, garlic, onion, egg, Italian Seasoning and cheese. Using a teaspoon or a small melon baller or scoop, make 1" diameter meatballs. (They can be bigger, but I personally favor quantity or size)  Saute in batches in the olive oil until brown on all sides.  If sauce is cooking simultaneously transfer to the sauce, but if it was made ahead, pour the sauce in to warm while the meatballs finish cooking.  I remove the meatballs to a warm plate to serve over the top after I have tossed the pasta with the sauce so that I am following the proper pasta protocol.

For the spaghetti, do not put it in the water until the meatballs and sauce are completely ready to serve.  Pasta does not wait for the sauce!!  Salt the water with at least 2 tablespoons of salt, then add the pasta.  Let it cook for 5 minutes then begin to test it.  You truly do want it just barely beyond the "crunchy in the middle" stage which is what "al dente" is referring to.  Remove it with tongs then add directly to the sauce.  With the tongs, toss the pasta for a couple of minutes to coat it with the sauce and finish up the cooking process.  Serve a mound of spaghetti with several meatbals and sprinkle with cheese.  Twirling lessons to follow...

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