Who doesn’t love a big pile of spaghetti and meatballs? It’s always been a favorite in our home, and for good reason. It’s a comfort food meal that can be prepared in less than an hour, and there’s usually always leftovers which make for great submarine sandwiches later in the week. It’s pretty much your standard meatball recipe…well, except for the addition of powdered gelatin.
I know what you’re probably thinking – gelatin? In ground beef? No thanks! But, hear me out. I don’t like using ground pork or veal in my meatballs, and that’s where the gelatin comes in. It mimics the natural gelatinous goodness that is usually found in veal; giving it that smooth, velvety quality – without, you know, eating infant cows. I use it in my meatloaf too. A tip I picked up from Cook’s Illustrated years ago. Just love them!
Spaghetti and Meatballs
For the meatballs:
1.5 pounds ground sirloin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices of bread, pulsed to crumbs in food processor
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
vegetable oil, for pan frying
For the sauce and pasta:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves , minced
Ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Parmesan cheese fresh, grated
In a large bowl, combine the egg and milk. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin on top, and let sit (or “bloom”) for 5 minutes. Add in remaining ingredients and mix gently with your hands until combined. Working with about 2 tablespoons at a time (I use a small cookie scoop), roll meat into 1″ balls and set aside.
Pour vegetable oil into 10- or 11-inch sauté pan to depth of ¼ inch. Turn flame to medium-high. After several minutes, test oil with edge of meatball. When oil sizzles, add meatballs in single layer. Fry, turning several times, until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Regulate heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer browned meatballs to plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in large pot for pasta.
For the sauce, discard oil in pan, leaving behind any browned bits. Add olive oil along with garlic; sauté, scraping up any browned bits, just until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, bring to boil, and simmer gently until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in basil; add salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and simmer, turning them occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Keep warm over low flame.
Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water. Cook until al dente, drain, and return to pot. Ladle several large spoonfuls of tomato sauce (without meatballs) over spaghetti and toss until noodles are well coated. Divide pasta among individual bowls and top each with a little more tomato sauce and 2 to 3 meatballs. Serve immediately with grated cheese passed separately.
Adapted from: Cook’s Illustrated, January 1998