Mongo Meatballs and Spaghetti

March 10, 2009 | By andrea | Filed in: Beef, Comfort Food, Italian, Main Dish, Pasta.

My father-in-law (a meat & potatoes guy) came over for dinner the other night and I wanted to make him a nice meal–something meaty yet something he wouldn’t make for himself. I decided to make meatballs and spaghetti. This meal was truly a sight to behold: giant meatballs perfectly positioned on top of a plate of tomatoey spaghetti and garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Oh my…it was so good! 

I substituted Italian sausage for the ground veal and ground pork. The recipe calls for kosher salt, a coarser textured salt than table salt. Generally, you should use less table salt if you’re substituting it for kosher salt because a teaspoon of table salt holds more salt than a teaspoon of kosher salt. Since I didn’t have kosher salt on hand, I used 1 1/4 teaspoons of table salt in the meatballs and 1 teaspoon of it in the sauce. Next time I’d probably just use 1 teaspoon of table salt in the meatballs because there’s salt in the Italian sausage and salt in the Parmesan cheese. I divided the meat mixture into 16 large meatballs. It helps to have the meatballs rolled and set aside before you start frying them. Otherwise your first batch might get too brown if you’re busy rolling meatballs and not paying attention to the ones browning. I used my big Oster Electric Skillet to brown the meatballs and it worked perfectly because of it’s size and it’s adjustable temperature control.

For the sauce, I used a 35-oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of plum tomatoes that are stronger and sweeter in flavor and less acidic than roma tomatoes. The brand I used was Cento, but any good-quality canned plum tomatoes will do. Since I was using a 35-oz can of tomatoes (instead of the 28-oz size), I also added a bit more parsley and garlic. I only cooked a pound of pasta and there was a perfect amount of sauce for it. If you like lots of sauce and are cooking 1.5 pounds pasta then I recommend doubling the sauce recipe (you may have a little extra sauce but that’s ok). This was a great dinner that everyone enjoyed (my 5-year-old on up to Grandpa). I’m sure my Italian friend Mikki and her family would be proud of me!

Real Meatballs and Spaghetti
– recipe from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

Makes 6 servings.

For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan

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