If you read this blog, or know us personally, you will know that there are only a handful of ways to eat pasta in this house. Shack, who loves pasta above all other things, really just means spaghetti/rotini with tomato sauce and meatballs OR with meat sauce, which is just really tomato sauce with meatballs smashed up in it. The only two exceptions are, of course, lasagna which is just a shape shifting pan of spaghetti and meat sauce and carbonara but that has lots of bacon in it and, well, BACON. I, on the other hand, love all forms of pasta with all kinds of sauces - olive oil sauces, cream sauces, fettuccine, farfalle, orecchiette - you put a bowl of some sort of carby goodness in front of me and I will be happy but if I say I'm cooking "pasta" for dinner, I mean meatballs/meat sauce/marinara with spaghetti or rotini, maybe penne if he is feeling adventurous.
For that reason, I was absolutely certain that I must have written down my recipe for plain old spaghetti with meatballs at some point but then, when I looked for it, I realized that I didn't. I had posted one on my other blog, No ReEats back in April of 2011, but that was it.
All of this sous vide cooking has been as much fun as a barrel of monkeys but there are still things that need to be done the old fashioned way and spaghetti with meatballs is one of them. I LOVE the texture of sous vide meatballs like my Miso Pork Meatballs but this method of browning them and then letting them slowly poach in the tomato sauce is still one of my favourites. The meatballs stay soft and tender and the sauce soaks up all of that meaty goodness. It's perfection.
No bells, no whistles, no time and temperature charts required. The only change I have made over the years is the addition of ground mushrooms to replace some of the ground pork a la blend and extend. It cuts down on the fat, makes my meat go further and nobody would ever notice so doing it has become second nature. My meatballs are not full of spices and I use minimal filler and the same goes with my tomato sauce. The most I will do is add some fresh basil right after I take it off the heat when basil is abundant and in season but I like my marinara to taste of good tomatoes and olive oil.
PC #5 umami paste - It's like jacked up tomato paste on steroids and it adds a bit of a flavour bomb. The sauce is still delicious without it but if you have never used it, pick some up the next time you are at Loblaws. It is full of tomato, anchovies, porcini mushroom, garlic - it adds a layer of flavour that nothing else can replicate.
In the States its sold as Taste #5 Umami Paste by Laura Santtini and there are a number of pastes in that line.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
115 g white mushrooms, finely chopped
500g ground beef
230g ground pork
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup panko
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
2 tsp kosher salt
few grinds of black pepper
1 extra large egg
olive oil for frying
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cans San Marzano plum tomatoes
freshly ground pepper
*about 1 tsp PC #5 Umami Paste optional
First make the sauce.
In a heavy, oven proof pot over medium heat, sauted the onion in the olive oil til soft before adding the garlic and sauteeing for another minute or two. If you are using the #5 Umami Paste, add it in with the garlic.
Add the tomatoes - this step is up to you. If you like chunky sauce, squash them between your fingers as you add them to the pot but if you like smooth sauce, puree the canned tomatoes first (I use an immersion blender right in the can).
Taste and add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer and reduce a bit while you make the meatballs.
Soak the panko in the milk and set aside while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
In a large bowl, add the ground mushrooms (I use a food processor to turn it into a fine chop), beef, pork, onion, garlic, parmesan, parsley, egg, salt and pepper and milk soaked panko.
Gently mix all of the ingredients together using your hand until just combined well. Form your meatballs, without packing them too tightly, and set them on a parchment lined baking sheet. If you are making them ahead, you can put them in the fridge now and leave them until you are ready to cook them - up to 24 hours. Size doesn't matter because you are cooking them in the sauce so small meatballs won't dry out and bigger meatballs will be thoroughly cooked - I like them just bigger than a golf ball.
Heat up a large frying pan over medium heat and add a big glug of olive oil - enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Start browning the meatballs in batches without overcrowding the pan. Move them around to make sure they are browned on all sides, remove them to a plate until all the meatballs are done.
Preheat the oven to 300F
Carefully add the meatballs to your pot of sauce, cover the pot, put it in the oven and bake it for an hour. You can also just simmer it on the stove but I prefer baking it off in the oven. It's nice to just pop it in the oven and walk away for an hour.
Serve with pasta of your choice - I used some fresh spaghetti from National Pasta