About The Saturday Chef

Midwest, United States
I am NOT a professional chef. I am what I affectionately dub a Saturday Chef—a weekend warrior of the culinary variety, fortified by the education I have gleaned from two high school cooking classes, the Food Network and my own gastronomical experiments. While I’m not ashamed to spend all day making bagels by hand, and proudly call myself a foodie, I’m not a food snob. I enjoy an Extra Value Meal as much as the next girl. My culinary escapades are still relegated to the weekends, but my love for cooking is stronger than ever, galvanized by more successes than failures, and the beautiful fact that the more I cook, the more people there are to feed. So please stay tuned for fun recipes, inevitable disasters and hopefully, a lot of good food.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Umptious Spaghetti and Meatballs

I’m going to put on my sparkly pink cape and become Captain Obvious for forthcoming confession.  Are you ready?

I love food.  (See why I needed the cape?) I love all kinds of food, from the healthy and leafy to the junk varieties.

But as much as I love it, sometimes it’s hard to wax poetic about artichokes or barbecue sauce. Lately, I have been struggling with not only writer’s block, but (Saturday) chef’s block. I haven’t made anything that I would deem blog-worthy or even been inspired by too many recipes.

Thankfully, I got the October issue of Bon Appetit in the mail, and as I flipped through its glossy pages, I found a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs, complete with a tantalizing picture. Instantly, my chef’s block was gone!

I worship spaghetti and meatballs. When made right, it’s everything one could one in a meal—meaty and tender with a delicious sauce. When made wrong, it’s as Chef Ramsay would seethe, “a dog’s dinner!”

I had the most fabulous plate of spaghetti and meatballs at a little Italian place in my small town with a girlfriend nearly a decade ago. I’ve been trying to re-create that salty, beefy, tomato-y umptiousness since that night as that little Italian place is now a big sports bar. Since then, I’ve tried every variation I could think of and literally dozens of recipes. I’ve used all turkey, all veal, even threw some bacon in the mix. I’ve pan-fried them and finished in the oven. I’ve simmered for hours in tomato sauce. I’ve had pleasing results and some meatballs that resembled beefy ping-pong balls.

This recipe is Why-Didn’t-I-Think-Of-That simple, and delivers ridiculous flavor. The sauce with San Marzano tomatoes (or Magic Tomatoes as I call them, because I’ll eat them plain and I HATE the texture of tomatoes) is vivid and bright.

If you’re on a quest for the perfect spaghetti and meatballs, it just ended here!

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Adapted from recipe in Bon Appetit, October 2010

2 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes and juice, preferable San Marzano
1 stick butter
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth as needed

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. When butter foams, add onions and sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add entire can of tomatoes and juice. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to break up the larger chunks of sauce, but leave fairly chunky. If too much liquid has evaporated, stir in vegetable broth to thin out. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

1 cup of plain breadcrumbs
1/3 cup milk (2% or whole)
8 ounces lean or extra lean ground beef
8 ounces pork or veal
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/3 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt, pepper
2 large eggs, whisked
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente

While sauce is simmering, mix breadcrumbs and milk. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the breadcrumbs absorb the milk.

Place beef and veal in a large bowl. Add cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic, whisked eggs and milky breadcrumbs. Gently mix meat mixture with hands until evenly combined. Meatball mix should be moist, but hold together.

Roll meat between hands to form meatballs that are a little smaller than a golf ball. Place rolled meatballs on in a pan or cookie sheet lined with foil. Chill in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

After sauce has been simmered, blended and seasoned, gently drop meatballs into sauce. Simmer covered until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes, occasionally swirling pot by the handles to stir meatballs without breaking them apart.

Spoon sauce over cooked spaghetti, garnish with parsley and grated parmesan.

NOTE: The recipe in magazine calls for whole tomatoes and juice.  I made it once with whole tomatoes and the sauce came out watery.  The diced tomatoes work better in my opinion.

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