Spaghetti and meatballs is such an iconic meal. It’s not really Italian or American, but, as in a lot of American food, a combination of the two. You’d hardly travel to Italy and see an Italian grandma mixing up a big batch of spaghetti in red sauce with a fatty meatball sitting on top. But in America, this is very common.
Why do we love this dish so much? I’m not sure I know the answer to this question, but ever since Jon and I first started cooking meatballs in tomato sauce, we’ve been completely enamored with everything about making and eating this meal. We’ve been talking for a long time about how to create a single bite that would do justice to spaghetti and meatballs. This week is the one-year anniversary of BiteSized, and Jon and I wanted to do a reprise on our first bite (also a meatball) and this time do the classic dish.
Maybe one reason people love to make this meal is that it’s so relaxing. It’s not stressful at all, and never can be (unless you’re making it for an insane number of people). It’s such a simple dinner to cook, but the nuances of how you make your meatballs and the ingredients in your sauce make a huge difference between something mediocre, or something really brilliant. I love the act of stirring the red sauce with a wooden spoon. Jon loves searing the meatballs in a hot pan and baking them in tomato sauce. We always make the leftovers into meatball sandwiches on good, crusty Italian bread.
Eating this meat and pasta concoction is just as delightful as making it. I love twirling the strands of pasta around a fork and the satisfaction that comes when the sauce turns out perfectly red, saucy and mouthwateringly tart and sweet at the same time. I love feeding spaghetti and meatballs to friends, because when it evokes their own memories or brings them comfort, their satisfaction becomes my own.
Creating a single bite that encapsulates the simplicity and warmth of spaghetti and meatballs was…challenging. We didn’t want to change the dish itself too much, but we also wanted to put a different spin on it and give it some of our personality. The little Parmesan cup was a great way to make what is usually a messy meal into something neater and BiteSized.
I love cooking a dish that has such a history across cultures and countries, and adding my little contribution to this long-loved tradition. Are we a total cliché for saying we love this meal almost more than any other? I don’t care. Spaghetti and meatballs are our favorite, and we don’t care who knows it.
For the Tomato Sauce:
1 carrot, grated
1 ½ large onions, grated
15 cloves garlic, made into a paste
3 fresh vine tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
1 24-oz can crushed tomatoes
3 bay leaves
- Grate onions and carrot on a box grater.
- Mince garlic and use the side of your knife to crush the garlic and make it into a fine paste.
- Dice tomatoes and make sure to reserve as much of their juice as possible.
- Sweat carrots and onion in oil and butter until soft. Do not allow vegetables to take on any color. Season well with salt and pepper.
- When carrot and onion is soft, add garlic and tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes, then deglaze with wine and reduce.
- Add tomatoes and bay leaves. Cook on low heat for an hour.
For the Meatball:
¾ lb ground beef
¾ lb ground pork
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
½ cup white wine
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp Dijon
2 tbsp Worcester sauce
½ onion, grated on box grater
4 thai chilies, minced
2 tbsp chopped chive
- Measure out all ingredients and combine in a bowl.
- With clean hands, mix ingredients just enough to combine. Do not overwork meat. Roll into meatballs, size of your choosing.
- Sear meatballs in a hot pan coated with oil, just enough to brown them on all sides. Place meatballs in a shallow dish and cover with some of the sauce.
- Cook at 350° until meatballs are cooked through.
For the Bite:
- Refer to the italian hoagie post on Parmesan Crisps. Shape crisp to fit into a mini muffin tin.
- Arrange small meatball in crisp with pasta and serve warm.
© 2011 Jonathan Meter and Jessica Hertle