Food ritual: Spaghetti & Meatballs

  
I was reading about the importance of rituals in our lives. The comfort that comes from familiar, from routines. Our family has many, but the one that brings me the most joy is Spaghetti & Meatballs. 

It’s not the result of Italian heritage (we’re a mix of stuff, mostly Scandinavian), but is the result of a twofold ritual–carb loading pre-swim meets and birthdays. 

Last week was a birthday for Alec, who’s now 17! I didn’t even need to ask him what he wanted for dinner. As I made it, I took more care than usual to pay attention to measurements so I could post the recipe with some accuracy. Normally I just wing it because it’s like being on autopilot. Happy, comforting. The eating part is great, but the prep ritual is soul restoration for me! Enjoy!

Meatballs

  • 1lb ground beef 
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 slices white bread, crumbled
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4c parsley chopped
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 sp Ground pepper
  • 1/2c grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Soak bread in milk–it should be moist but not drenched. Saute onion and garlic over low heat in butter until just starting to caramelize, about 10 min. Add herbs and seasonings to onion mixture and remove from heat. This helps the tasty stuff distribute evenly when you mix it into the meat. Squeeze excess milk from bread. Add it to beef and pork, mix along with onion mixture and cheese until just blended, mix in egg to bind. Roll into generous balls. Place on broiler pan lined with tinfoil, bake at 500 degrees for 5 min. Keep meatballs in oven, but lower temp to 350 and cook another 20 min. 

Sauce

  • 2 28oz cans whole Italian plum tomatoes
  • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 lbs spaghetti

Boil water for pasta. Heat olive oil, add garlic, saute 30 sec, add crushed red pepper and salt, then tomatoes. Add basil. Simmer 10 min while pasta cooks. Blend to desired smoothness either with hand blender or in food processor (the boys tolerate “chunks” now that they’re older). You can also simmer meatballs in sauce for extra richness. This tomato sauce is more tart than sweet like most jarred sauces and along with thyme in the meatballs makes it distinctively ours. Of course these portions mean leftovers, which seem to disappear without anyone fessing up to secret eating. 

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Asian Meatballs

This is a versatile recipe either as a cocktail finger food app or as a main dish paired with a side such as Chinese noodles. 

My trick with meatballs is to bake on high heat to start and then lower temp to cook fully. They get a nice crust, yet stay moist. Way easier and less mess than pan sauté. 

Serve these with a readymade condiment of your choice–Sriracha, Szechuan sauce, chili-garlic sauce. No leftovers in our house!
Asian meatballs

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1lb ground pork
  • 1 slice white bread, torn into pieces
  • 3tbsp milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 3 tbsp chopped ginger (Ginger paste is a new fav of mine, so easy!)
  • 5 cloves chopped garlic 
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Sriracha (optional)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
  • 1/3c chopped cilantro

Soak the bread in milk–it should crumble easily but not be soggy. Squeeze out excess milk if necessary. Mix in remaining ingredients by hand, do not overmix! Add sesame oil and/or Sriracha if you like a bit of heat. Roll into 1 inch balls. Make a bit smaller for app size. Or a bit bigger if you just get lazy or impatient hungry boys pressure you to hurry up.

Line a large baking pan with tinfoil, bake meatballs at 500 degrees for 5 min, turn the heat down to 350 (keep the meatballs in the oven) and cook another 15 min. Let them set a bit to cool.