Monday, November 15, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Pure comfort food tonight - this is a dish I haven't had since I don't know when, and it was possibly the best dinner I've had in months. I do rather suspect the enjoyment was enhanced by being ravenously hungry by the time it was ready; it took about an hour all up, but that was making everything from scratch (well, nearly - bought pasta, tinned tomatoes, supermarket stock - but I think that counts). It was also just me cooking tonight - Mr Cake usually helps but tonight was busy fixing my blowtorch: a very manly endeavour!

I pretty much made this up as I went along and if you are going to make this meal feel free to substitute things at will. There is a gratifying feeling, I think, that comes with putting together a meal from base ingredients - I love shortcuts but sometimes it's nice to feel like you haven't cheated, you've done it all yourself. And this is a pretty easy kind of done-it-all-yourself with pretty tasty results. 

I don't think I'll write this as a recipe as it was all so ad hoc - is that okay with you guys? - I'll just step you through what I did. Let me know if I need to elaborate on anything!

Hot pan + olive oil + diced onion + garlic + a bay leaf or two = delicious smells. That's a good start to any meal! It's really better to fry this stuff at a medium temperature for five to ten minutes but I'm impatient, so I get slightly charred onion - but faster. Once the onion softens up add two tins of tomatoes and leave it to simmer while you take care of the meatballs. 

I used about 500g of premium mince (I just can't stand the cheap stuff, happy enough with the cheapo options for many things but never mince!), half an onion (one and a half went in the sauce), about half a cup of breadcrumbs, an egg and some dried oregano. The best way to mix it up (though it is fairly oozy) is by mushing it up with your fingers. You can add more breadcrumbs if it's still a bit gooey when it's all combined. Then just roll it into meatballs. You don't want them to be too big as they won't cook through, but mine are still a pretty generous mouthful - actually, these were really two mouthfuls each.

Meanwhile, add a bit of stock and a bit of red wine to the sauce. I use the tomato cans as it gets the last of the tomato-y goodness out and into the pot, rather than sending it down the drain when I rinse the tins. I used about 1/3 of a tin of each liquid; you could just use one or the other or water in place of both if you prefer. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, and leave it simmering away for a while longer. 

Now time to get the meatballs sizzling - if you have a non-stick pan you don't need any oil, just heat it up and toss them in. I used tongs to turn them when each side was done as rolling them around the pan only ever seems to result in about three of them moving at any given time. Once the meatballs are browned on all sides and looking fairly well cooked tip the whole lot into the sauce - this will get them all saucy and fabulous, plus will make sure they're properly cooked through. 

About the same time as the meatballs go in the pot, pop some spaghetti into a saucepan of salted boiling water. I always boil the jug then pour the water into the saucepan and salt it - technically I should get the water boiling in the pot before putting the spaghetti in but I'm willing to take the risk...Don't boil it to mush, just keep checking (eating little bits is the best check) to see if it's done.

All the while, the sauce will be slowly simmering away, infusing deliciousness into your meatballs. The way to ensure maximum deliciousness is to keep tasting it and seasoning as you go. A bit of salt here, a dash of black pepper there, and right at the end I ripped up some fresh basil and turned it through the sauce.

And then, because I was starving hungry and it was after 8pm and I had spent an hour at the gym and then an hour cooking and had actually been hungry before I even went to the gym - well, I just plonked in in plates and we gobbled it down. No pretty Donna-Hay-esque styled food tonight - but then this is a kind of rustic meal so I'd like to think perhaps that would have been mildly inappropriate.  Wouldn't you say?

Eating this was fabulous - the flavours were rich and fresh and just right - to me meatballs seem a bit childish (is it just me or does anyone else think of the somewhat adapted song we sang when we were kids - "On top of spaghetti / All covered with cheese / I lost my poor meatball / When somebody sneezed"? I can't help making the association) but this meal was super yummy and not at all childish.


  1. I love spaghetti and meatballs - comfort food, but a bit more of an effort than plain spag bol. Yours look fantastic - I make a pretty similar recipe myself except I tend to just simmer the meatballs in the sauce.

  2. I have never added a bay leaf to the sauce before,I'm going to try it and see.

    Thanks for an always interesting blog,I also love the fact that you are so prolific.

  3. Laura, someone else recommended that to me last night on Twitter. I have to say, not sure if I could bear to be without my crispy edges but I am convinced enough that I'll try it that way next time I make it. :-)

    Anon, thanks for your kind words. :-) I was just throwing everything I could find in the pot but it seemed to work out well!

  4. Todays offering made me think of another site i saw today
    not exact receipes but interesting

  5. Sandra, that's awesome! Love it. :-)


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