Robust Spaghetti & Meatballs

spaghetti
“Oh, Spaghetti. So many ways, so many recipes. Which one to choose?!?”

This recipe was designed to help you answer that one specific question. You can easily alter parts of this recipe to bend it to your specific taste. Whether your family likes a strong meaty and robust sauce or whether your family prefers a lighter more basic recipe, this dish is quite flexible depending on which spices you use.

The meatballs however, shouldn’t differ much. Trust me. Make these meatballs and pair them with an appropriate sauce. Bend your sauce around your meatballs; not the other way around.

This particular recipe, prepared the way it is, leans more towards the “robust” or fuller flavor side of things. To me personally, a good red sauce is a little spicy and a little sweet. In most Italian cooking, the spicy and sweet help offset an otherwise cheese intensive dish. The red sauce recipe I recommend is both a little spicy and a little sweet.

If you are looking for a less “robust” pasta sauce, don’t add the red pepper/cayenne and reduce the amount of basil and oregano to 1/2 Tbsp for the sauce. You can also leave off the red wine, and add 1/4 cup water instead.

What You’ll Need
(For the Meatballs)
• 1Lb Ground Beef
• 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs or Panko (I highly recommend the Panko)
• 1 Egg
• 1 Tsp Salt
• 1 Tbsp Dried Basil
• 1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
• 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
• 1 Tsp Onion Powder
• 1 Tbsp Mild Olive Oil (for frying the meatballs)

(For the Sauce)
• 1Lb Crushed Tomatoes
• 1 Medium Diced Onion
• Garlic Cloves (x2, diced and chopped)
• 1/4 to 1/2 Cup Red Wine
• 1-1/2 Tsp Red Pepper (or Cayenne, half for a less spicy sauce)
• 1 Tsp Sugar
• 1 Tbsp Salt
• 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
• 1 Tbsp Dried Basil
• 1 Tbsp Dried Oregano

(Garnish and Extra)
4-5 Fresh Basil Leaves, sliced thin or shredded
Parmesan Cheese (shredded)

(Noodles)
I prefer Angel Hair pasta for this recipe, but don’t let that limit you. This recipe works great with Spaghetti, Linguine or even small Shells. This is a personal choice, but make sure that you cook enough based on the package for at least a serving of four.

Tools You’ll Need
1 Large Pot for boiling noodles
1 Medium Pan for cooking meatballs
1 Medium Pan for cooking sauce

* BEFORE COOKING… SOME PRO TIPS!!!*
*PRO TIP #1*
When mixing up the meatball “dough” it is important to make sure that the mix is evenly distributed. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can try to use a spatula to combine all the elements in a bowl, but the best results involve getting your hands dirty and just mixing everything manually. Keep in mind that you will still have to shape the meatballs anyway, so you might as well combine the meatball ingredients and shape the meatballs beforehand. Try to roll your meatballs to be about 1″ thick in diameter or less with an even shape.

*PRO TIP #2*
The “perfect” done level of noodles is a term called “Al Dente.” For most store bought noodles, this will be at about 11 minutes in boiling water. You don’t want underdone crunchy noodles nor do you want overly done bloated and soggy noodles. Traditionally, a noodle was considered done when a cook could toss it at a wall and the noodle stuck! This tradition still holds true, but if you don’t want to peel noodles from your wall, boil noodles at 11 minutes.

*PRO TIP #3*
If you missed it from my previous post(s), adding salt to water will decrease the time it takes for water to boil as well as slightly flavor your noodles. Add some salt to the water that will be used for boiling the noodles for both flavor and to reduce boil time.

*PRO TIP #4*
Adding butter or oil to noodles while cooking does little to no good to prevent sticking together (though rice is a different story). Ever heard that “oil and water don’t mix?” Well it’s true. Salt, and only salt, will decrease noodle cook time, but it won’t help prevent noodles from sticking to each other. Make sure to stir your noodles every now and again to prevent them from sticking.

What to Do
1. Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl and combine ingredients until the mixture thickens. As mentioned earlier, try to keep the meatballs around 1″ or less in diameter. Try to keep all meatballs around the same diameter.
2. Start a pot to boil with enough water to cover the amount of noodles you intend to serve. Don’t add the noodles until the water starts to boil. It is best to keep the noodles intact, but you can snap them in half if you have trouble fitting them in your boiling pot.
3. Heat the 1 Tbsp Olive Oil in a medium pan on medium heat until the oil “runs” easily. You should be able to tilt the pan and have the oil easily coat the entire pan.
4. Add the onions and garlic to the pan, and cook until fragrant and translucent (usually about 5-10 minutes). You’ll know when it starts to smell awesome.
5. Add the red wine to the pan of onions and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic and onion mixture is no longer stuck to the pan and the wine has reduced in volume some.
6. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, oregano and basil to the mixture, and stir well. Reduce heat to medium/low and continue to stir until the onion/garlic mixture, wine, tomatoes and spices are well combined.
7. By now, your noodle pot should be boiling. Add the noodles and set a timer for 11 minutes.
8. In a separate pan, heat up 1 Tbsp of olive oil at medium heat and start to fry the meatballs. Make sure that the oil and pan are heated before adding the meatballs.
9. Stir the sauce mixture and make sure everything is combined and does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
10. “Roll” the meatballs so that the uncooked side makes contact with the pan (you can do this with a spatula or by simply shaking the pan). You can cook the meatballs to a medium-rare, but make sure that the outside of all the meatballs gets cooked to a medium-brown color creating a “crust.” You’ll need to roll them again to ensure that each side gets properly cooked on the exterior. Lower the heat to a medium-low.
11. Check the noodles and stir them so they don’t stick and stir the sauce.
12. “Roll” the meatballs again. You want to try to evenly cook each side of the meatballs so that all sides get a “crust.”
13. Stir the sauce again. Wait until the noodles are cooked for 11 minutes and drain them and set aside (throw them against a wall and see if they stick for fun!!!!).
14. At this point, depending on how thick your meatballs are, they should be done. Remove meatballs from the heat, and drain off the excess oil and add them directly to the sauce and coat them with the sauce.
15. Plate with noodles first, then add the sauce and meatballs. Finally, add fresh basil shreds and shredded Parmesan cheese.

Time. To. Eat.

Enjoy!!!

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