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Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Serves 4-5.

1 ½ lbs. spaghetti
6 cups tomato sauce
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground sirloin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs. ground onion (about a quarter of an onion)
1 tbs. parsley or thyme, finely chopped (only one)
2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs (stale white bread ground in a food processor)
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup whole milk (enough milk to wet crumbs without them sitting in a big puddle)
1 pinch chili flakes
¼ cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
Vegetable oil, to coat the pan
Salt and ground black pepper

  • Soak breadcrumbs in milk for about 5 minutes or until all the milk is absorbed.
  • Add onion, garlic, chili flakes, grated cheese, eggs, herbs, pepper, and salt (if you like things on the saltier side like me, a small palm-ful is good). Mix everything well. Add meat. Mix gently until just combined.
  • Form golf ball sized balls. Don’t tightly pack the meatballs. Only handle them until just round. You can also make one tiny marble sized meatball (cook this one in the pan to make sure your seasoning is right. If it needs more salt, just sprinkle the formed meatballs with more salt).
  • Meanwhile, heat up a big pot of water to a rolling boil. Make the spaghetti according to the package.
  • Heat up a pan on high. Add oil and let it heat up. When almost smoking, add the meatballs, trying not to overcrowd the pan. It’ll probably take two batches of cooking to get them all.
  • Sear the meatballs on all sides. Take them out of the pan and set them aside.
  • Drain the excess grease from the pan, if there is any. Lower flame to medium and add tomato sauce. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Let tomato sauce come to a bare simmer. Add all meatballs to sauce and let simmer for about 8-10 minutes to finish off cooking.
  • Toss together spaghetti, meatballs, and sauce. Serve with more cheese on the side.

The key to this recipe is the use of fresh breadcrumbs and soaking them in milk. I had always used dry breadcrumbs (the kind in a can) and the meatballs always came out a little too dense. The milk-soaked fresh crumbs give a lightness and creaminess to the meatballs. Almost as good as grandma’s.

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I actually had a low key Friday evening to myself for the first time in a looooong time. No frantic Christmas shopping, no holiday parties, no family dinners, just me, Moo Shu, a slew of Monk reruns on DVR, and a big bag of clams in the fridge. I cooked up some spaghetti with clams, a quick and easy standby, perfect for when I want to cook without thinking. It came out better than ever.

I suppose my whole not-caring-much nonchalance added that little bit of magic needed to raise the dish to a new level. Like that guy that only likes the girls who play hard to get…maybe.

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Spaghetti with Clams

Serves 2-3.

3/4 lb. spaghetti (linguine or angel hair would work too)
18 littleneck clams, rinsed and scrubbed (cockles and cherry stones work well too, just be aware of the change in cooking time as cockles are much smaller than littlenecks and cherry stones are larger)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbs. parsley, chopped
2 tsp. lemon zest
4 ½ tbs. lemon juice
2 tbs. unsalted butter
3 ½ tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches red chili flakes
Salt and pepper

  • Heat a deep sautee pan over a medium high heat. Add 1 tbs. of the butter into the pan along with 1 tb. of olive oil.
  • After the butter has melted and the oil has heated (about 2 minutes), put the garlic in the pan and sautee it for about 1 minute or until cooked and lightly brown. Add the red chili flakes.
  • Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package in a pot of boiling, well salted water. A few seconds before you drain the pasta, carefully reserve 3/4 cup of the water. Set aside for later.
  • At this point, add the clams and 1 tbs. of lemon juice to the pan. Stir the clams around and lower the heat to low. Cover the pan and allow the clams to steam open. This should take approximately 9 minutes. Check back after the first 7 minutes though, just to make sure you don’t end up over cooking them and making them rubbery.
  • Once the clams are cooked,  check the clams for any that are unopen. Now don’t go nuts and start tossing half the clams out if they aren’t open. They’re probably just not done cooking yet. They won’t all cook at exactly the same second. If you see a bunch (more than 4) unopened, give them another minute. You may wind up with no unopen clams at the end or there may be one or two. These are the ones that were dead to begin with. Do not, I REPEAT, do not pry them open, you little cheapskate. Let them go. Toss them. Your digestive tract will thank you.
  • Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan. Stir it all rigorously to mix the sauce, clams, and pasta. Turn off the heat.
  • At this point, add the 3 remaining tbs. of lemon juice, the lemon zest, cracked black pepper, 1/2 cup of the reserved water, the other 1 tbs. of butter, the other 2 ½ tbs. of olive oil, and about 2 tsp. (like two really big pinches) salt. Toss the pasta once more. The strands should be glossy from the sauce, but there shouldn’t be so much liquid that it completely floods the bottom of the pan. There should just be a thin film of it on the bottom (see photo below). Taste the pasta for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, or chili flakes if necessary.
  • Garnish with parsley and serve with a small bowl for the clam shells.

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See that? Just a wee bit of sauce at the bottom with the strands all glossy and ready for their closeup

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