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August 10, 2010

It all starts with a little basil. . . Well, actually, it all ENDS with a little basil.  Regardless, it’s the basil that really makes this spaghetti sauce one that instantly became a staple at our house, eliminating all others that came before.  You see, B.T.S. (before Tyler’s spaghetti), there were two:  my favorite, and Alex’s favorite.  Out of the kindness of our hearts, we alternated.  Then, I randomly decided to try Tyler Florence’s spaghetti and meatball recipe. . . and our lives changed irrevocably.

A little bit of some history for you here. . . I originally started watching Tyler’s Ultimate because I love how they shoot the video of his dishes.  They always end up looking like mana from heaven, glowing ethereally out of the television and into my heart.  After buying the house, we had family over for lunch.  Knowing that my cajun cooking, decent as it is, is no comparison for my grandma’s or my Aunt Dot’s, I decided to cook spaghetti instead.  Instead of choosing between our two tried and trues, I decided to attempt ULTIMATE SPAGHETTI and MEATBALLS.  Daunting, no?  It was actually much easier than I imagined it to be and super tasty too.  Now on my eighth or so batch (in five months), I’ve tweaked it a bit and can’t imagine my life without this handy go to recipe.  We’ve already hauled it around to family reunions, frozen batches for Alex’s mom, and eaten so much of it that you would think that we’d never want to eat spaghetti again.  Even now, as I’m typing this, I’m wondering if it isn’t too soon to make another batch.  It has been about three days since we finished off this last one. . .

Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 thick slices firm white bread, crust removed
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups heated Pomodoro Sauce, recipe follows
  • Leaves from 3 sprigs fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 pounds of spaghetti
  • Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the vegetables are soft but still translucent, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let cool.  Seriously, you have to let this cool, or the warmth will melt the fat in the meat and make forming meatballs a total pain in the rear.

    Pour enough milk over the bread in a bowl to moisten and let it soak while the onions are cooling. Combine the meats in a large bowl. Add the egg and Parmigiano and season generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and add that to the bowl along with the cooled onion mixture.  Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands or with a spoon until just mixed together. Don’t overwork or the meatballs will be tough. Divide into 10 equal pieces and shape them into 10 nice looking meatballs.  Here’s the thing. . . I don’t like HUGE meatballs (which these would be), but I do like big chunks of meat, so I always form the meatballs but am not compulsive about them actually keeping their shape when cooking.

    Heat a 3-count of oil in the frying pan over medium heat and cook the meat without bothering it too much.  After the meat is cooked, add the pomodoro sauce and cook a bit longer (maybe fifteen minutes?) on a low heat.

    Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.  Once the sauce is finished, mix everything together and stir in chopped basil leaves.  At this point, I actually like to let it sit, covered, for about twenty minutes so the pasta soaks up some of the sauce.  I’ve tried not rinsing with cold water, and for some reason, it soaks up the sauce better when you rinse it – not to mention the pasta doesn’t stick to itself or continue cooking.  This recipe is really awesome, and tastes even better the next day.

    Pomodoro Sauce:

    • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 3 tsp. chopped garlic
    • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, liquid reserved (I go all the way to Calandro’s to get these tomatoes.  So worth it!)
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

    Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes) and all of the reserved liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring for a few minutes with a wooden spoon to further break up the tomatoes. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season again.

    Yield: 4 cups

    Okay, here’s the deal, Tyler only uses a pound of spaghetti, but I think it’s way too much meat for just a pound of pasta. . . So I added more pasta (which makes so much more sense than using less meat).  And, this makes a ton, guys.  Seriously. . . you will not need to cook for days and days. (And isn’t that awesome?!)  I’ve also tried adding chopped bacon to it which is FREAKING GOOD.  Of course, everything is better with bacon. . . unless you don’t eat pork products (in which case you’ll want to not use the ground pork either).   I would imagine that you’d need to add some fat in if you swapped the pork for lean ground beef. . . I mean, you would NEED to.  Heaven forbid this recipe have slightly less fat than intended.    Regardless, it’s definitely a keeper.  My copy is already blotchy and stained with the juice of a thousand tomatoes. . .

    2 Comments leave one →
    1. August 11, 2010 12:06 pm

      This seems like a fancy fancy spaghetti recipe. At my house spaghetti night is LAME. Just pasta and jarred sauce with a few add-ins. I hadn’t found a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs that inspired me, till now. I’m going to try this next week!

    2. August 11, 2010 12:16 pm

      That is so awesome. I hope that you like it. I really thought that it would be a recipe that I made once, and then never looked at again, because it seemed like too much work . . . but it turned out to be so easy, and so worth the little bit of extra work that it requires.

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