Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I try to spend an hour, 4 or 5 times a week, running. It clears my head, keeps me happy and I love it. Lately, I've been running more regularly and I noticed my running pace really ebbs and flows. So I started paying more attention to what I'd fed myself and whether or not it led to a good or bad day in those running shoes. As obvious as it seems, I was still surprised to realize that the big bowl of pasta really does feed those runs.

The bowl of pasta has to be adorned with something, and marinara sauce with meatballs is one of my favorite things to make (and eat). A meatball is a canvas to be painted, so many different things can be mixed in, but there are a few rules that I find really do matter.

I toss the mixture with my fingers, not a spoon, keeping them flexible and loose without squeezing or packing the mixture. Fingers are great because you can feel what you are doing and toss it gently, like a salad.

In contrast, when forming the meatballs, a little compression is good so they don't fall apart. If you are careful about not overmixing it in the previous step, their quality won't be compromised by giving them a decent squeeze to hold them together.

Lastly, if a meatball falls apart while you are browning them (I usually loose one), take it as a bonus. Break it apart and add it to your tomato sauce when you are cooking the meatballs in the red sauce, for a little added thickness. Sometimes I break a few apart and throw them in the sauce for variety.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Serves 4

1 lb. spaghetti

2 - 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes

1 & 3/4 lbs ground meat, a mix of ground pork and ground beef
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs (homemade or purchased breadcrumbs work)
1 yellow potato, diced in small 1/4 inch squares
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp worcestershire
1/4 cup olive oil

Rinse the potatoes, cover with cold water and put over high heat on the stove. As soon as they come to a boil, turn of the heat and drain the potatoes.

In a large bowl place the ground meat, dried bread crumbs, cooked potatoes, onion, egg, parmesan, parsley, mustard powder, garlic powder and worcestershire. Using your fingers gently toss the mixture together without packing it down. Form the mixture into 2 inch meatballs, around 16 total.

Put a large stock pot (a low wide stock pot works great) or frying pan over medium high heat and add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, put in about half the meatballs, depending on the size of the pan, just being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Let brown, and turn, browning all sides, cooking for about 10 - 12 minutes total. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and cook the second batch. Transfer the rest of the meatballs to the plate.

Add the diced tomatoes to the pan. Turn up to high and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan. Gently place all the meatballs back into the pan spooning tomato sauce over the meatballs. Bring to a very gentle simmer and cook until the meatballs are cooked through, 20 - 30 minutes.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water.

Serve the meatballs and sauce over pasta with grated parmesan on top.

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