Are you looking for some comfort food that is upscale enough for company? These ultimate meatballs are loaded with fresh ingredients and served with a simple fresh tomato and herb sauce over whole wheat spaghetti. Ha! So they are good for you too!
Top the dish off with a quick grate of aged parmigiano-reggiano and a sprig of fresh basil and you have a show stopper.
You can dish up individual bowls in the kitchen to make sure each dish looks fantastic, or you can serve the whole thing family style at the table. I used a big wooden salad bowl to give the dish that rustic Italian look. It was just gorgeous. And did I mention how delicious this dish is? Wowee, one of the best things I’ve made in a long time.
I was inspired by Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Meatball show. He had gone to Italy in search of the ultimate meatball. He found several locally famous Italian chefs who mentored him on how to make the ultimate meatball. Each of the chefs had their own special twists, and Tyler gave the recipe his own special twist, and I, of course, gave everything my final twist. I should have played some Chubby Checker while I was doing all that twisting! (I had to look that up in Wikipedia. I am way too young to know who Chubby Checker is.)
I made the meatballs with sirloin, pork and veal. I sauteed some diced onion and parsley first. I used a half a loaf of french baguette and took the crust off, then pulled it into small pieces. I soaked it in some milk for about ten minutes, then drained it. I mixed the meat, soggy bread, onion, parsley, some fresh chopped basil, some grated Parmesan cheese and FOUR eggs along with salt and pepper. All the Italian Mama Mia’s said to only mix long enough to pull everything together. The more you mix, the tougher the meatball. So, ever so gently, I mixed everything together.
Once mixed, I formed a handful of the soggy mixture into good sized balls and rolled them in a dish of dried breadcrumbs. I plopped the breaded meatballs into a large fry pan with a little olive oil and browned them on two sides. I removed them from the fry pan and set them into a 9 by 13 glass baking dish.
In a separate saute pan, I made a very simple, fresh tomato sauce. I used the small tomatoes that come attached to the vine. I didn’t peel or seed them. I just cut them up into fairly large chunks and sauteed them in olive oil with garlic, onion and fresh basil. I didn’t saute for very long, just a few minutes. Then I poured this mixture all over the meatballs in the 9 by 13 pan. I topped everything off with fresh mozzarella that I had torn into small pieces. A final grating of fresh parmigiano-reggiano and the whole thing went into the oven for only 30 minutes.
When the meatballs where done, I removed them to a platter and covered them with tin foil. I scraped all the remaining tomato sauce and tomato bits from the baking dish into a saute pan (the same one I used to make the sauce in the first place).
Meanwhile, I had put a pot of water on for the spaghetti. I used whole wheat pasta, but you can use whatever kind you like. Just before the spaghetti was done, I took a couple ladlefulls of pasta water and added it to the saute pan with the rest of the tomato sauce. I added about a cup of beef stock and a squeeze of tomato paste (or a tablespoon if using a can of paste). I stirred that all together, then added the cooked spaghetti right from the pot of hot water to the saute pan. No need to drain the pasta. Just scoop it up with tongs and add it to the sauce in the saute pan. Gently toss the pasta with the sauce to completely coat the pasta.
At this point you can arrange some of the pasta in individual dishes and top each with a meatball, some parmigiana and a fresh sprig of basil, or you can arrange a large family size platter or bowl with the spaghetti topped with all the meatballs, a bit of parmigiana and some fresh basil. Either way, it will be a wowee dish! I hope your guests enjoy this as much as mine did.
Here is the link for the recipe: