Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spaghetti & Meatballs

My current cooking goal is to to figure out how to make really amazing meatballs. It just seems like a good dish to be able to do well. So the news that next month's cooking challenge is to be spaghetti fell right in with my plans and gave me an excuse to begin playing around with new recipes! I think that meatballs might have been the first meal that I really tried to cook, using a recipe out of an old cookbook, and I'd say I was only about 12 or 13 years old. Then I never made them again, and I'm not sure why. They weren't a failure, though the consistency of the sauce was odd, which may have been due to my trying to thicken it with cornflour without really knowing how. To be honest though, I don't actually remember how the meatballs turned out that time. Now I have finally made them again, and they kept me going the whole weekend. I had a look at several different recipes and most of the basic ones are all the same so I made up my own version, combined it with a chunky sauce that I found online and roasted the whole lot together in the oven. It was good, and really simple, but not absolutely spectacular, so I think I will keep this as my 'basic' spaghetti and meatballs recipe. I will continue to look for something really amazing for the cooking challenge!
Triple Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

1 diced onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
200 grams mushrooms, diced
2 cans diced or crushed tomatoes, plus a half can of water
100 grams chopped sundried tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
A large pinch of mixed herbs
Salt & pepper

There are two ways that you could make this sauce. You could take your time and add the ingredients one at a time, beginning by heating the oil, adding the onions and garlic, then the mushrooms and so on, letting it simmer for a half hour or so until it is thick and season it till it's really tasty. And that would be simple enough to do, I might try it next time.

However, for this dish I made the sauce using a completely different method. In fact, it was not really a method at all, it was just that simple. I took my large square glass casserole dish and placed all the ingredients in it. I mixed them up well together and levelled the mixture out. Then I placed the meatballs on top and roasted the whole lot for about an hour, turning the meatballs over halfway through.

Baked Meatballs

2 tablespoons chopped onion (I took some of the onion that I chopped for the sauce)
Small handful fresh parsley
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or 2 thick slices of stale bread)
1/4 cup grated parmesan
400 grams beef mince
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 egg

My first experience with meatballs is that they are really easy to make! They are easier still if you have a food processor or a small chopper. Mine is dying, I need a new one. At home in New Zealand you can easily buy breadcrumbs at the supermarket, but here in Galway things are just not that simple. So if I want to keep on making my own breadcrumbs I guess I will have to fork out for a new food processor. It's important for this recipe because if the ingredients are left too chunky, your meatballs might fall apart. You need to chop the onion, parsley and bread finely, so the first step is to place these three ingredients in your food processor and grind them up well.

Next you need to grate the parmesan (or other strong tasting, hard cheese) and crush the garlic. Then put everything into a large bowl.

The ingredients need to be combined really well, so while you might want to start mixing with a spoon you will eventually need to use your hands to really press the mixture together. It should come together into a ball and be sort of wet but not sticky.

I rolled 20 smallish meatballs with this recipe. If they are too big they might not be done in the middle when you think they will be and also, they will make it difficult to roll them up in the spaghetti. Place you meatballs on top of the sauce ingredients in a large casserole dish. You could fry them or bake them separately but in my (limited) experience this tends to leave one side flat and I wanted proper round meatballs. This way worked really well!

After half an hour I checked the meatballs and I suggest you do the same. The sauce doesn't really need to be stirred but if you want the meatballs to be brown all over you should turn each of them. Taste the sauce and add some salt and pepper if it needs it. Let them cook for another hour and in the meanwhile boil some spaghetti. The best way to serve this is to drain the spaghetti, then take a few big spoonfuls of the sauce and toss that through the spaghetti, so that it is full of flavour and does not dry out and stick together. Then serve up piles of spaghetti topped with the meatballs and more sauce. If you think that the sauce needs extra seasoning, just take the meatballs out and place them on a warm plate in the oven while you add whatever you like to the sauce. It was pretty good as it was though. It was so yummy that I had a couple of meatballs for breakfast too.

1 comment:

  1. They sound yummy. I love to put different spices in my meatballs to make them interesting but they are definitely great with pasta.


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