Sunday, November 6, 2011

spaghetti meat-a-balls

I’ve always been afraid to cook spaghetti bolognaise from scratch. I'm not entirely sure if this trepidation comes from either the lack of confidence that it can be tastier than pre-bought bolognaise sauce (I know! What a foolish notion) or just from a lack of confidence, period.

But ohhhh… how far I’ve come, my dears. Suddenly felt like I’m a 100 years old.

To bolster my confidence deficiency problem, I went on an ultimately very quick search for an easy-to-follow recipe, and if possible, with lots of pictures. The very first site I looked at was the blog Pioneer Woman Cooks. It took one search term (“spaghetti”) for me to find her Spaghetti & Meatballs post. I read it. I made up my mind.

I stumbled upon PWC last year sometime and I’ve been a Ree Drummond convert ever since. And looking at the Amazon bestsellers list, looks like I’m not the only one. She’s one of the few amazing bloggers I’m emulating to be.

Reasons why I (and you should) love her:
  1. The clear instructions
  2. The millions of pictures she posted for each recipe
  3. Her quirky sense of humour
But enough of my raving. Let's get on to the cooking, shall we?

I have never made spaghetti meatballs before, always the bolognaise, never the meatballs.

Prep all the ingredients. Grate the carrots. Finely chop the parsley. Pick off the tender basil leaves from the stalk.  Finely chop the onion.
Oh, and thinly slice the bacon too!

To make your own bread crumbs, start by halving your baguette lengthwise.
Line them on a baking tray, white sides up, dry them in a 120°C oven until they are crispy but not coloured.
Put the crispy baguette into a sealed bag, and start bashing it to your heart's content, until they become bread crumbs, as we know it.
It's ok if it's still a little bit chunky, adds a bit of texture to the meatballs
Set aside a cup of this for the meatball mixture below.

I got this 50% pork, 50% veal mince from the shop. Perfect meatball material.
Combine the veal and pork mince with the eggs, half of the chopped garlic, half of the chopped parsley, bread crumbs, freshly grated pecorino.
Season with a bit of love, that's salt and pepper for you.

Mix it all up with your hand. You can do it in the food processor. But I think hand is best (and less washing up to do).

Now comes the fun part.
Take a little bit of the meat mixture and roll them up into a ball with your hands, using a circular motion.
I didn't use any tools to portion mine, so my meatballs ended up being different sizes.
But that's alright, it's all about rustic-ness these days, isn't it?

As you're forming these little balls of heaven, line them up nicely on a baking tray.
This will then go to your freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.
Look at them! Aren't they just so pretty?

After 10 minutes, add your choice of vegetable oil to a large french oven, over high heat. We want the oil to be hot hot hot before we start.
Drop the meat-a-balls into the french oven, in batches. Be careful of hot oil splattering.

We only want to brown them, not cook them.

So, once they're golden brown and delicious (on the outside), drain them onto a paper towel.

Now, still using the same french oven, but on a medium heat, let's saute the carrots, the last half of the minced garlic and the chopped onions.
You see those brown bits at the bottom of the pot, they make the sauce that extra bit more delicious.

Cook until the carrots are soft and the onions are translucent.

I like this brand of canned tomatoes. Buy two cans chopped and two cans whole.

Add the tomatoes to your carrots and onions.
Splash some of your favourite wine.
I only had white wine, I read that whites are actually great for cooking than reds, since their flavour is not as strong, so it's alright if you don't cook it for long.
Add the bacon pieces.
And the last half of the chopped parsley.

Season the sauce with more love: salt, pepper and sugar.

Nothing more to do than to stir and let it cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.
The tomatoes need to get to know their neighbours, the wine, the bacon, the parsley and be best friends with them, before we can introduce them to new friends.

Now that the sauce has developed, we can pop in the meat-a-balls.
Reduce the heat to low and cook for another 30 minutes on simmer.
In the mean time, how about you start cooking your spaghetti to al-dente goodness.

You can't have spaghetti meatballs without basil, can you?

Now, if I wasn't so lazy, I would have gotten another pot, spoon some of the sauce and meatballs onto this other pot, and add my pasta to this other pot.

But, I seriously cannot wait that long and do not want to add another pot to my washing up, so I dunked my pasta straight into the sauce to absorb the sauce for a couple of minutes and to reheat it slightly.

I fished them out onto a plate

Take a meatball out of the pot and pop 'em straight into my mouth.

Let the warm, fuzzy feeling to take over.

Maybe I should put some on the plate as well? And some sauce?

How about some more of that freshly grated pecorino?

As the Italians would say, bellissimo!

Hubby cannot get enough of it either (he's the one who requested it, FYI).

Spaghetti Meat-a-balls
Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Meatball ingredients:
  • 700g veal and pork mince
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • half a baguette, to make 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup pecorino or parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 cup flat parsley, finely chopped
  • a pinch of salt and no more
  • freshly cracked black pepper, liberally

Sauce ingredients: 
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 brown onion, minced 
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 pieces of streaky bacon, thinly sliced
  • 2x400g can of whole tomatoes
  • 2x400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cups of white wine
  • 1/4 cup of flat parsley, finely chopped
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • dry spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup pecorino, grated

  1. Prep all the ingredients. Chop the onion finely, mince the garlic, chop the flat parsley finely, grate the carrot, pick the basil leaves. Slice the bacon thinly into matchstick sizes. Grate the pecorino.
  2. To make the bread crumbs, halve the baguette lengthwise, and place on a baking tray white sides up. Pre-heat the oven to 120°C. Dry the baguette until it's crispy bread crumbs consistency. Place the dry baguette into a sealed bag and bash with a rolling pin until crumbs are produced.
  3. Mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs by hand. Pick a small small handful of the mixture and make into meatballs. Repeat until all are made into meatballs. Line the meatballs onto a baking tray and freeze for 10 minutes to firm up.
  4. Onto a heavy bottomed pot, add some olive oil or any other vegetable oil until the bottom is fully covered liberally with the oil. Heat on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the meatballs in batches to brown (not cook). Try not to overcrowd, otherwise the meatballs won't brown. Remove and set aside on a paper towel lined plates to absorb the oil.
  5. Once all the meatballs are browned and set aside, on the same pot, add the carrots, the garlic and onions. Sauté until onions are translucent and carrots are soft. About 5 minutes.
  6. To the carrots and onions, add the canned tomatoes, wine, bacon and parsley. Season with salt, black pepper and a tablespoon of sugar. Stir to combine and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.
  7. Add meatballs to the pot, stir to combine and cook for another 30 minutes on a low simmer.
  8. Cook your spaghetti to al-dente consistency.
  9. Add basil to your sauce.
  10. Serve the spaghetti sauce and meatballs over the al-dente spaghetti. Top with more grated pecorino. (But how I like to do it is combine the meatballs and sauce with the spaghetti first on a different pan then serve it on a plate, topped with grated pecorino)


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous,

      This is a follow up to my last reply (one year later). But, last night I watched a TV show called "Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket", and your comment came to mind. Jimmy, a farmer and the show presenter, made a few interesting points of how veal (from male calves) is raised in the modern days. One that stuck with me was, male calves (bulls) are usually not raised to full maturity as they are smaller animals compared to the female cow. Male calves are usually slaughtered shortly after birth.

      If you are not a vegetarian and you eat normal beef, you may want to reconsider why veal offends so deeply? I believe it is a far better option to raise the male calves humanely for meat (like their female counterparts) than to slaughter them shortly after birth.

      The outdated perception that male calves for veal is reared strictly indoors so that the meat is white (due to lack of iron) is no longer true. Here in Australia, the RSCPA does not allow this practice and it can prosecute farmers who do otherwise. In Britain, "rosé veal" is also apparently reared the same way. Depending where you are in the world, there are options in procuring high welfare veal.

      I hope this has provided you with some food for thought, and here are some of the links that might interest you:

  2. Anonymous, I'm sorry if veal offends you deeply. My suggestion would be to substitute with something else.

  3. Great looking meatballs! Super post!

  4. I am speechless! These meatballs are just.... SPECTACULAR! Great job, Domestic Bunny!

  5. I am so happy to hear such a high praise, Karen. Thank you so much!

  6. Lovely work! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is about veal? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. Cheers


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