Springtime doesn’t exactly bring to mind spaghetti and meatballs, but if my dad had a favorite meal, it would involve “red sauce” every time. The last few years we have made a tradition of making his favorite for his birthday. Silky and rich marinara plus rich and homey meatballs make this the perfect family dinner. Also, just for my dad, every birthday means a pie. This year’s was a new one for us and a favorite for him: strawberry rhubarb. My dad’s grandpa used to always ask his grandma: “What kind of pie do you have?” and she always had one, every night. Gotta love life on a farm! This pie was super tasty, but as it was a memory recipe, I will have to develop a complete one to share with you. J
This ended up being a perfect homey birthday meal. Happy Birthday Dad!
Birthday Spaghetti and Meatballs
From Lidia’s Italy
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 35-ounce can peeled Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid
10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a 2 to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife, toss them into the oil, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Carefully slide the tomatoes and their liquid into the oil. (My suggestion is to reduce the heat and then add the tomatoes and liquid all at once. If you add a bit at a time it will splatter EVERYWHERE, take my word for it!) Bring to a boil, and season lightly with salt and peperoncino. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and cook, breaking up the tomatoes with a whisk (best tool ever for this job!), until the sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the basil about 5 minutes before the sauce is finished. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
**A couple notes: I use about half the amount of oil and it works out just fine (the photos above are for a recipe about 2.5x). I like to try to cut the fat down, just a bit. Don’t be afraid to adjust the seasonings as you like, I always make this just a little different. I find every can of tomatoes is just a little different and sometimes they need a little more acid (think sherry or red wine vinegar) and sometimes they need some more sweetness or spice. Just have fun with it!
Adapted From Rao’s
Makes about 28 meatballs
1 pound ground lean beef
½ pound ground veal
½ pound ground pork
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 cups lukewarm water
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°. Tear good, fresh bread into a food processor and pulse until you have coarse bread crumbs.
Combine beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl. Add eggs, cheese, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, blend ingredients together. Blend bread crumbs into meat mixture. Slowly add water, ½ cup at a time, until the mixture is quite moist. Shape the meat mixture into balls (2½ to 3 inch balls). Place the meatballs on a baking sheet as you go, leaving a bit of space between each of the meatballs.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden and nearly done.
Lower cooked meatballs into simmering Marinara Sauce and cook for 15 minutes.
Serve with al dente spaghetti.
**Note: add the water slowly. I usually end up closer to 1-1 ½ cups and it is just perfect. Make the meatballs whatever size you prefer. I have made them on the small side as well as the 2 ½ inch size and both are wonderful. I bake these to save on the hassle (and fat) that comes with frying. They are still tender and delicious.