Spaghetti con Polpette di Carne (Spaghetti and Meatballs)
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Spaghetti con Polpette di Carne (Spaghetti and Meatballs)

My husband rarely makes requests for dinner, so on the rare occasion that he does, I do my best to make it work. Of course, when he said he had a request for a “simple meal of spaghetti and meatballs”, he started laughing, because he realized that I couldn’t make just any spaghetti and meatballs, I had to make the best spaghetti and meatballs. I first made this dish back in 2010, and I can’t believe I haven’t made it since! It’s incredibly flavorful, and can be adapted to be made with all one type of meat, or even meatloaf mix (veal/pork/beef). Lidia Bastianich is a master of Italian cooking, so it’s no wonder that this is so delicious. Just a word of caution – if you use really good quality red pepper flakes, such as Penzeys, this will have quite a bit of kick, so you may want to ease back on the amount that you use if you don’t want it to be too spicy. I also made some of My Favorite Garlic Bread, which was perfect for sopping up the delicious sauce. The sauce does reduce quite a bit while it cooks, so next time, I think I’ll double it. This was a wonderful meal that was perfect for the cooler weather we’ve been having this week.

Spaghetti con Polpette di Carne (Spaghetti and Meatballs)

Spaghetti con Polpette di Carne (Spaghetti and Meatballs)

Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen – Lidia Bastianich

Makes 6 servings

For the Sauce:
Two 35-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, (preferably San Marzano) with
their liquid
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
1 cup fine, dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 pound spaghetti
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Pass the tomatoes and their liquid through a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 4- to 5-quart pot over medium high heat. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, crushed red pepper and bay leaves, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, crumble the pork and beef into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the bread crumbs, 1/3 cup grated cheese, the parsley, and garlic over the meat. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon salt  and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl until blended. Pour over the meat mixture. Mix the ingredients with clean hands just until evenly blended. Don’t overmix. Shape the meat mixture into 1-1/2 inch balls.

Dredge the meatballs in the flour until lightly but evenly coated. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and the vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Slip as many meatballs into the skillet as will fit without crowding. Fry, turning as necessary, until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Adjust the heat as the meatballs cook to prevent them from overbrowning. Remove the meatballs, and repeat if necessary with the remaining meatballs.

Add the browned meatballs to the tomato sauce and cook, stirring gently with a wooden spoon, until no trace of pink remains at the center of the meatballs, about 30 minutes.

Stir the spaghetti into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, about 8 minutes.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Spoon in about 2 cups of the tomato sauce, tossing well until the pasta is coated with sauce. Remove from the heat and toss in 2/3 cup grated cheese. Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve the pasta in warm bowls or piled high on a large warm platter. Spoon a little more of the sauce over the pasta, and pass the remaining sauce separately. Pass the meatballs family-style in a bowl, or top the bowls or platter of spaghetti with them.

Big Flavors Rating: 5 Stars

Ashley Covelli is a food photographer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor based in Ossining, New York. She loves helping people become enthusiastic and adventurous in the kitchen so that they can build skills and confidence to cook for themselves and their loved ones. She can almost always be found with at least 3 different beverages within arm's reach.


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