Every so often, a day comes along where the weather is so perfect. And if you’re schedule permits, you get to enjoy this day the way beautiful fall days should be enjoyed.
That was yesterday. I had a quick latte to start the day off while I watched my stories (aka Regis & Kelly - can’t start a day at home without them. Won’t.) and then headed out on my bike to the grocery store. It was threatening rain when I left the house but as though the weather God’s knew I wasn’t prepared, the clouds parted and let the sun shine through for just a little while.
You know those moments that are so perfect, so heart-stoppingly beautiful, that you wish you could freeze them in time, stick them in a box, and look at them whenever you were having a less-than-perfect day? Again, that was yesterday. Halfway to the store, as I was zipping down 2nd Ave, the air was cool and the sun was shining bright on my back, hefty gusts of wind took the leaves from their summer homes on the trees and exploded them into orange confetti, and the air smelled of thick smoke from someone burning a fire nearby. I slowed my biked to a snails pace so I could soak myself in every single second of it. From that moment on, my day was made. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that.
I had my heart set on spaghetti as I headed in the direction of the grocery store. There was no denying myself that. It just felt like a good day to be twisting and slurping noodles with a movie on and a glass of wine to accompany. And what’s more classic than a few big, tender meatballs in marinara piled high atop a bowl of tangled noodles? Answer: nothing. Don’t try and argue with me on this one. Not up for debate. I won’t have it!
The rest of the day, though the weather took a turn for the rainiest, I busied myself making meatballs and sauce. And I did so with the biggest of smiles and a warm heart. But that could have been from the wine. Come to think of it, it was probably the wine.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
adapted from Ina Garten
It’s vital to the tenderness of a meatball that you be gentle when mixing and forming. Do these steps with tender love and care and I promise you will come out with a soft, flavourful meatball.
1 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices of white bread, crusts removed an processed)
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten lightly
3/4 cup warm water
Combine all ingredients except for oil and blend, very gently, with a fork until combined.
In a large, heavy pan, add enough oil to reach a depth of about 1/4” and heat over medium-high until shiny.
While oil is heating, very gently roll the meat mixture into balls just bigger than a golf ball. You want them to be big but not massive. Put the meatballs into the oil, about 5-6 at a time, and let them brown on all sides, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer them to a dish until you’ve finished. Set aside. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pot.
adapted from Ina Garten
I used whole plum tomatoes for the sauce, which was fine, but having a picky eater in the house meant I needed to puree. So I left the original recipe’s suggestion of crushed tomatoes for those who like it smooooth.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 cup good red wine
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2lbs spaghetti, cooked to al dente accordingly to package instructions
Good quality olive oil
In the same pot as you browned the meatballs, drizzle with a little oil and add the onions. Cook over medium heat until translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the wine and turn the heat up to high. Cook, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until wine has almost reduced completely. Add the tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper. Add the meatballs to the sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30-40 minutes until sauce has thickened slightly and meatballs are cooked through.
Serve over spaghetti with a sprinkle of Parmesan and a drizzle of your best olive oil.
(and to answer your question, YES, I DO love Parmesan. A LOT. And I won’t apologize for it.)