But really I can’t make any promises. I love pasta. I bought a pasta machine as a post breakup gift to myself last summer and that moment really is what started family dinner. Since that first pasta night we have done five or six and without fail, no matter when I make the dough or how early I begin shape the pasta, we will not eat before 11pm. I mostly make traditionally Italian if not more specifically Roman pasta dishes that I picked up while living in Rome in 2012: Bucatini all’Amatriciana, Ragu, Carbonara, occasionally delving into Umbrian Penne alla Norcina. I am fully a snob when it comes to pasta, and this leads us to the true hypocrisy of this post: I made meatballs. Quick recap on the meatball: Italians only serve them by themselves if they’re large, and when they’re small they usually go in soup. When the Italians immigrated to America at the turn of the 20th century they were actually spending less of their income on food then they were in Italy and thus eating more meat and the meatball “snowballed” for lack of a better word. I found a recipe for tiny meatballs last week that had tons of herbs and ricotta AND I could make them the day before dinner, so we put all prior rules and feelings about American meatballs in the bathroom.
So these meatballs are a combination of a couple recipes that have all clearly been based off of Marcella Hazan’s recipe from her book Marcella’s Italian Kitchen. Side-note: if anyone would like to purchase this cookbook for me it’s on my amazon wish-list. Combining the things I liked from all of these recipe’s I ended up with:
1/2 cup parsley finely chopped
1/2 cup basil finely chopped
1/2 head of garlic finely chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian breadcrumbs that I already had in the cupboard, stale bread works too)
1/2 cup of ricotta
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
4 egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 dried chile, or 1/2 tsp of cayenne/chile flakes
2 lbs Italian sausage
corn starch (if frying)
So I threw my whole peppercorns, dried chile and herbs into my blender to combine them which to be honest didn’t work, don’t do that. Next time I will put the peppercorns and the chile in the spice grinder and finely dice the herbs and combine in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, salt, and nutmeg. “If you don’t have a spice grinder, regular ground pepper and some cayenne or chile flakes are fine” in my best Ina Garten voice. In a much larger bowl, mixing with your hands, combine the uncased sausage with the egg yolks and the ricotta. Then add your herbs, spices, and breadcrumbs. Do a test cook on a dime sized piece of sausage mixture, to test your seasoning and adjust where you wish. On a large sheet tray shape your meatballs, I did mine in maybe the size of a quarter in diameter. I also coated my meatballs in cornstarch and fried them (3-5 minutes in a half inch of oil and then rolled them over for another 3 to 5 minutes) and then kept them overnight to use in my sauce the next day. This made about 110 meatballs, you totally could halve this recipe, this many meatballs was 12-14 servings.
The last time I tried to make pasta sauce Ian yelled at me. It was arguably bad pasta sauce. Bad in the sense that it was fully edible and had anyone but me served it we all would have been more than happy, but it was bland, there was much too much sauce in relation to the amount of meat, the flavors didn’t combine right, it didn’t cook long enough, and we all have come to expect more from me. I was not going to let that happen again so I went back to my recipe hunting for making the perfect marinara sauce. Sourcing back to Marcella Hazan she claims that whole peeled tomatoes, a stick of butter, salt, and an onion, and those four things alone make the perfect sauce. Besides the fact that she’s a best-selling James Beard Award-winning food writer, her meatballs came out really good and I figured i’d give it a shot with my own tweaks. Makes 12-14 servings of sauce. Unless you’re feeding a small army or my friends that have apparently never eaten before, halve recipe or plan on freezing some of it.
Kat’s Marinara Sauce:
2 (28 oz) cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 large Vidalia onion cut in 1/8ths
1 stick of butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 head of garlic peeled
2 bay leaves
1 cup beef or chicken broth (I prefer bone broth but like I said — snob)
2 dried chile’s
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
A few sprigs of chopped parsley and basil, and 1/4 cup chopped to add later
1/2 bottle of red wine (chianti, montepulciano, light pinot noir, something cheap and drinkable)
In a big (preferably cast iron) pot heat two tablespoons of olive oil and toss in the onion followed by the garlic cloves to release their aromatics, put everything else in the pot, bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cook for two hours stirring occasionally. You will probably need to add more salt. If you want a heartier chunkier sauce you can really just use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes and the garlic, if you choose this method I would use cracked pepper instead of whole peppercorns, for a smooth sauce throw the whole cooked down mixture in the blender, make sure you dig out the bay leaves. I added the chopped herbs after pureeing to give my sauce some more color. If you’re serving this with your meatballs add them in to heat the meatballs up again, serve with fettuccini or a big rigatoni and parmesan.