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Spaghetti And Meatballs

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Why I Love This Recipe

This is a recipe straight from Cook's Illustrated; I'm posting it for a friend, but the meatball recipe is really very similar to my family's recipe - I'd venture to say this will make an excellent dish.

Ingredients You'll Need

2 slices white sandwich bread (crusts discarded), torn into small pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk or 6 tbsp plain yogurt thinned with 2 tbsp whole milk
1 lb ground meat (preferably 3/4 lb ground chuck and 1/4 lb ground pork)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp finely minced garlic
3/4 tsp salt
Ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil for pan-frying

Smooth Tomato Sauce
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp minced fresh basil
Salt and ground black pepper

1 lb spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


FOR THE MEATBALLS: Combine the bread and buttermilk in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes, mashing occasionally until a smooth paste forms.

Place the ground meat, Parmesan cheese, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Add the bread-milk mixture and combine until evenly mixed. Shape 3 tbsp of the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatball. (When forming meatballs, use a light touch. If you compact the meatballs too much, they can become dense and hard.) You should be able to form about 14 meatballs (can be made up to 3 hours ahead - cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let come back to room temperature just before using).

Pour vegetable oil into a 10- or 11-inch saute pan to a depth of 1/4-inch. Turn the heat to medium-high. After several minutes, test the oil with the edge of a meatball. When the oil sizzles, add the meatballs in a single layer. Fry, turning several times, until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Regulate the heat as needed to keep the oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer the browned meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot.

FOR THE SAUCE: Discard the oil in the pan, but leave behind any browned bits. Add the olive oil for the tomato sauce along with the garlic and saute, scraping up the browned bits, just until the garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in the basil and salt and pepper to taste. Add the meatballs and simmer, turning them occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Keep warm over low heat.

Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook until al dente, drain, and return to the pot. Ladle several large spoonfuls of sauce (without meatballs) over the spaghetti and toss until the noodles are well coated. Divide the pasta among individual bowls and top each with a little more tomato sauce and 2 or 3 meatballs. Serve with Parmesan.

Several things to keep in mind - a classic Italian meatball meat mixture is equal parts ground chuck, pork, and veal. But just the chuck and pork is extremely good, with the added bonus of being cheaper. You'd be amazed at how much more flavor the two meats have when mixed. Also, bread crumbs will dry out the meatball, but bread soaked in milk will give the meatballs a very luscious texture. Squeeze the bread out before adding it to the mix, so that it's not dripping wet. Don't use extra-virgin olive oil to fry the meatballs - you want an oil with a high smoke point, like peanut. This sauce is very basic and quick, but it is pretty tasty. If you have another sauce recipe you use, go ahead and substitute. I personally would use my family sauce recipe.

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