Joe: To celebrate Sarah’s return to the wheat world I made a classic that has always been one of her comfort foods. Like most of our cooking, we find using fresh ingredients is the way to go. So, after work I stopped by DiBruno’s and picked up some freshly made spaghetti and a nice loaf of fresh ciabatta bread.
For the meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 to 3/4 cups of bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste.
While preparing the meatballs heat a quart or so of red sauce of your choosing. I used to always make my sauce from scratch but in recent years there have been a number of jarred sauces come out that are quite good and preservative free. Last night I used Newman’s Own Basil Marinara. Heat to a simmer over medium heat then reduce heat to low.
Finely chop the garlic or put through a garlic press. Add to the meat in a large bowl. Add half of the breadcrumbs and one egg. For the bread crumbs I cut up chunks of the ciabatta bread and put it in a 200-degree oven for a half hour or so. Then I put it in a mini cuisinart and pulsed it until I had bread crumbs. If you have the time, leave the bread out overnight. Mix well. (I find the only way to properly mix the meat is by hand.) Add the other egg and mix again. Then add breadcrumbs until the meat is solid and any slipperiness of the eggs is gone. You have to do this by feel, as the amount of bread crumbs necessary will vary depending on the moisture in the meat, the humidity that day, etc. Add salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan. Roll the meat into balls. The size is a personal preference. I usually get about 12-14 balls out of a pound of meat. Place meatballs in pan at least a half an inch apart. Brown on all sides. This will not cook them through. When browned add to the sauce that is simmering. They should be cooked through in 20-30 minutes.
About five minutes before the balls were done I cut up bread into four flat pieces about four inches wide. I put two cloves of garlic in a press and put them in a small bowl. I added a few tablespoons of olive oil and mixed it well. Then, I spread the bread with the garlic and olive oil and I put it under the broiler until crispy and brown.
I added the pound of fresh pasta to about 5 quarts of salted water. Fresh pasta only needs about 3 minutes to cook. It was wonderful. I have forgotten how pasta made with gluten has a slightly bread-like quality and is very springy compared to the gluten free variety. There are some very good gluten-free pastas out there but nothing equals fresh pasta. Also, real pasta is more filling than gluten-free pasta. I had forgotten this and got very full quickly.
Drain pasta, put meatballs in a bowl and serve. I topped mine with some Spanish cheese with a soft parmesan quality.
By the noises coming out of Sarah, it was a successful meal.
[Sarah’s note: Yes. Yes, it was.]