Monday, October 17, 2011

I, meatball

Best meatballs

This was not only probably the best tomato sauce I've ever eaten, it was probably the best thing I've had in the last month. And I didn't even make it.

This one is all D, who pulled this together on Thanksgiving long weekend, reminding me once again why I should be thankful to have such a great partner in cuisine. This recipe yields a ton, so it's also a gift that keeps on giving (this stuff always improves over time). The spaghetti squash is a nice autumnal alternative to the usual Catelli.

Homemade Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti Squash (adapted from Martha Stewart)

For The Spaghetti Squash
2 spaghetti squashes (about 2 pounds each), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For The Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 shallots, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, chopped or cut up using kitchen scissors
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoon of brown (or white) sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed slightly
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For The Meatballs
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup milk
1 pound ground beef
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


To prepare the spaghetti, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle cut sides of squashes with oil; season with salt and pepper. Place cut sides down on a baking sheet. Bake until soft to the touch, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

To prepare the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for an additional minute. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, oregano, basil and fennel seeds; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30-40 minutes. Keep warm or simmering over low heat.

Prepare the meatballs. In a medium bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, and garlic with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the milk, and stir until incorporated. Add the turkey, egg, salt, and pepper, and mix with your hands until well combined. Form mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls.

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the meatballs until evenly browned, turning often, about 6 minutes. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Transfer meatballs to the sauce, and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes.

When the squashes are cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh of each squash with a fork into strands, and place into a large bowl. Serve topped with meatballs and sauce, and sprinkled with cheese, if desired.

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