Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recipe Revisit: Spaghetti & Meatballs

Good evening everyone! As the new year quickly approaches, and the old slowly grinds to a stop - many people (and media outlets) are looking back on 2010 and reflecting on the greatest achievements of the past year. Best of lists, greatest of 2010 list, worst of 2010 list - you name it, it's out there right now. We're doing a little 'reminiscing' ourselves on the blog and revisiting a recipe from our first full month of blogging - spaghetti & meatballs. While the finished dish was still very good (in fact, it made our cookbook as one of our best of 2010 recipes) it had some room for improvement. (Mainly due to my error in purchasing canned tomatoes with jalapenos). Tonight, I'm setting out to fix one of our earliest dishes. By combining a new sauce recipe with a tried and true meatball recipe - I hope to create the perfect spaghetti & meatball combination. Let's get started:

The Recipe: Spaghetti & Meatballs
Revisit From: Spaghetti & Meatballs - A Classic Made Delicious 

What You'll Need:

For The Meatballs:

12 Unsalted Saltine Crackers
2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 Pound Lean Ground Beef
1 Large Egg
Parsley (To Taste)

For The Tomato Sauce:

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 1/2 Cups Grated Onion (1 to 2 Small Onions)
6 Medium Garlic Cloves (minced)
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
6 Cups Bottled Tomato Juice
3 (28 Ounce) Cans Crushed Tomatoes
6 Tablespoons Dry White Wine
1/2 Cup Minced Basil Leaves
Parmesan Cheese

3 Pounds Spaghetti

NOTE: The spaghetti sauce recipe makes enough to serve 12 people - so if you are cooking for a smaller crowd - or just don't want a lot of leftovers, I'd recommend cutting the recipe in half.

Regular readers of the blog will recognize the meatball recipe right away. Jaime Oliver's 'cracking burger' recipe has become the standard starting point for any of our recipes calling for burgers, meatballs or meatloaf. We have yet to find a recipe that delivers a meatball with more flavor - that fact combined with the overall ease of preparation - makes Jaime's recipe a winner.

If you are a regular reader of the blog - you can now probably recite the cracking burger recipe in your head. However, for those who are not familiar with our favorite meatball combination - I'll give a brief rundown on preparing the cracking burger mix. (Full, more detailed instructions can be found HERE).

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and preparing a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set a wire baking rack on top of the baking sheet and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Begin by adding all of the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, mash and scrunch the mixture until everything is well combined. Next, break the meat mixture into four larger balls of roughly equal size. I've found that this makes making the meatballs a lot easier.

Begin pulling off sections of meat from the larger balls and forming them into smaller, roughly golfball size, balls. You don't have to break the meat down to any particular size - it's all a matter of personal preference, however, I've found that balls that are about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter tend to work best.

Place the finished meatballs on the wire baking rack, spaced evenly apart. Using the method described above, you should end up with about 24 to 30 meatballs. Place the baking sheet into the oven and allow to cook for 20 minutes.

While the meatballs cook, you can begin cooking the tomato sauce.

Add your olive oil to a large (nonstick) dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Next, add the grated onion (feel free to cheat and use a food processor to chop the onion - I honestly don't think you're going to notice much of a difference between a grated or chopped onion - and the food processor makes much quicker work of everything). Cook the onion (stirring occasionally) until it begins to turn a light golden brown color. This should take about 5 to 7 minutes.

Next add your can of crushed tomatoes. (According to the fine folks at America's Test Kitchen, the Hunt's brand of crushed tomatoes are the best on the market - if you cannot find crushed tomatoes, Hunt's diced tomatoes will also work - the finer the dicing, the better).

Add your garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano as well. Stir until everything is combined and heat until the mixture begins to simmer - roughly 1 minute. Next, add the tomato juice (America's Test Kitchen also recommends Hunt's brand tomato juice - low sodium - here as well) as well as a liberal seasoning of salt and black pepper. Stir until everything is combined and cover the dutch oven. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 15 minutes before moving on to the next step.

Once your meatballs have finished cooking, remove them from the oven and reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Carefully move the meatballs from the wire rack to the sauce mixture, making sure they are completely submerged in the sauce. By moving the meatballs into the sauce, you add another layer of flavor to the tomato sauce, as well as infuse the meatballs with the rich tomato flavor of the sauce.

Once all the meatballs are in the sauce and completely submerged, place the dutch oven (covered) into the oven and cook for 45 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. When there is about 30 minutes left on the timer - place your large pot of water on high heat to begin cooking the spaghetti. Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions.

Once the sauce has thickened, add a sprinkle of parsley and basil to the mixture and stir. If you prefer a sweeter tomato sauce, you can add a small sprinkle of granulated sugar to the mixture as well. Serve the tomato sauce and meatballs over the spaghetti with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and enjoy!

The Results:

The second time was the charm for this dish. Just like my first attempt, the meatballs held a great flavor - and were still incredibly juicy. The added bonus of infused tomato flavoring only enhanced an already complex flavor profile from the delicious little morsels.

The biggest change on this revisit was the tomato sauce. Instead of simply purchasing the correct canned tomatoes and trying the same recipe again - I sought out to make my first attempt even better. I found that the tomato sauce from my first go-round was good - but overly simple in flavor. I wanted to add garlic, oregano, parsley and basil to the mixture - as well as changing the type of tomatoes used in order to create a much more complex, mature sauce. Using this new recipe was a fantastic decision. The sauce was full of flavor without being overpowering in any one area. A perfect blend of natural tomato flavor and spices greatly enhanced the meatball's already delicious taste and turned a good dish into a great dish.

It's safe to say, if we do a 2011 edition of the cookbook - this recipe will be showing up in its pages.

That's all we have for you tonight. Maggie takes to the kitchen tomorrow night with a brand new recipe, so be sure to stop in tomorrow evening to see what she's got cooking.

Also, if you haven't done so - be sure to check out our cookbook! It's full of the best recipes from 2010 - along with color photos of each dish. At only $25 - it's a great gift or just a nice addition to your cookbook library. You can buy the book form - either by going to Blurb and searching Out Of The Culinary - or by clicking the link on the right hand side of the blog. You can also preview the cookbook on our Facebook page - (Out Of The Culinary) click on the 'Our Cookbook' tab on our fan page and you'll see a 9 page preview of the book. We're incredibly proud of the final product and are confident you'll love the book once you get it in your hands. Buy your copy today!

Until tomorrow night,


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