For quite sometimes, the noodle lover in my family has been nagging me to cook her spaghetti with meatballs. So far I have cooked different spaghetti dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese, spaghetti with tuna and chili, spaghetti with mushroom and tomato, spaghetti olio e aglio plus bacon an chili, spaghetti Carbonara and even classic lasagna but never have I tried spaghetti with meatballs.
Last night when I turned on my TV and watched one of my favorite channels the TLC (Travel Living Channel), it was showing the famous Take Home Chef program. It was already almost the end of the show and I only watched the part where Curtis Stone showed how to cook the pasta until ‘al dente’. Then he put butter on a pan, melt it on medium heat, and then add the pasta (spaghetti) into the melted butter and toss them with fork. He then showed how to serve the pasta by rolling the spaghetti with a fork and put them on a plate and add the sauce. It just so happened that Curtis was cooking spaghetti with meatballs
After watching the Take Home Chef program that night I decided to cook spaghetti with meatballs the next day. Since I missed the part where Curtis cooked the meatballs I had no idea how to cook them so I browsed through my cooking book collections and found a recipe called ‘Fusilli con Polpettine’ or Fusilli with meatballs in one of the Periplus Mini Cookbooks . At least I could try this recipe.
As always, before I try out a new recipe, I like to do a little desk research and this time I did my research on ‘Polpette’
Polpette is the Italian name for meatballs. They are in many ways a holdover from an earlier time, when refrigeration was not as dependable as it is today and trimmings and leftover meats had to be dealt with quickly or they would spoil. Polpette, are true home cooking of the sort you are unlikely to encounter in any but the most mom-and-pop type trattorias that cater to a local clientele. Nor are you likely to be served them if you are invited to someone’s house, unless you are considered family.
A pity, in some ways, because meatballs are easy to make, flavorful, and delightfully moist and tender too. One thing that may come to a surprise to people living outside the Peninsula is that in Italy they’re generally served as a second course, with a salad or vegetable; spinach and beet greens are especially popular in Tuscany.
One general note on technique: Italians often use bread — not bread crumbs — in meatballs: Take day-old Italian bread, trim away the crust, soak the bread for several minutes in milk, and squeeze most of it out. You don’t want it dribbling-soaked, just well moist. Mix the soaked bread into the ground meat.
And here is my version of Spaghetti with Meatballs or Spaghetti con Polpettine
- 250 gram spaghetti
- 250 gram minced beef
- 50 gram bread crumbs
- 20 gram freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- Rind and juice of half lemon
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons seasoned flour
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- 20 gram butter
Ingredients for the sauce:
- 100 gram tomato paste or puree
- 125 ml beef stock
- 125 ml red wine
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon oregano powder
- Salt and pepper
How to make:
- Peel the onion and chop very finely
- Using your fingers combine the minced beef, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, chopped onion, egg, lemon rind and juice, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Roll tablespoonful of the mixture into balls then roll the balls in the seasoned flour
- Heat the oil in a large pan and the fry the meatballs in batches until golden
- Remove from pan, drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Drain excess oil and juices from pan
To make the sauce:
- Combine tomato paste / puree, beef stock, wine, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper in pan and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and return the meatballs to the pan
- Simmer for 15-20 minutes
- Meanwhile, add the spaghetti to a large pan of rapidly boiling water and cook until ‘al dente’ then drain.
- Put the butter on another pan and melt it on medium heat
- Add the spaghetti on the melted butter and toss it with a fork
- Roll the spaghetti using the fork and place them on the serving plate
- Add the sauce with the meatballs around the spaghetti
When I serve this spaghetti with meatballs to the noodle lover, she was very happy.