If you’re tempted to skip this post because spaghetti and meatballs are too pedestrian, don’t do it! This was the best dinner I’ve cooked in weeks! The first bite took me back to a small Italian trattoria where I had this dish years ago. These meatballs are tender, moist, flavorful, and the tomato sauce (note: contains neither onion nor garlic) gets a lift from the addition of capers. It’s so simple that you’ll be shocked at how flavorful it is! The recipe comes from the latest issue of Food and Wine, with small modifications that, modesty aside, worked quite well. It was a perfect dinner-date recipe for Saturday night. Uncork the chianti and let the music play…
SPAGHETTI AND ITALIAN MEATBALLS IN TOMATO CAPER SAUCE
(adapted from Food and Wine, original recipe from Massimiliano Alajmo)
for the sauce:
1 can of whole, peeled tomatoes (28 oz)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs capers, drained and chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
for the meatballs:
1/2 cup white bread, crust removed, roughly diced
3-5 Tbs milk
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
1 egg, beaten
8 pitted kalamata olives, diced
1/8 cup freshly grated Parmiggiano cheese
2 Tbs fresh parsley leaves, minced
1 tsp salt
Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, add the capers and oregano. Simmer for a couple more minutes, season with salt and pepper and keep warm while you prepare the meatballs.
Cover the bread with milk: soak it well. Drain any excess and reserve the bread. In a large bowl, mix both types of meat, add the softened bread, egg, olives, cheese, parsley, and salt. Wet your hands with cold water and very gently form the mixture into 1.5 inch diameter meatballs. You can prepare the meatballs hours in advance.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or aluminum foil) and bake the meatballs in a 400F oven for 20 minutes, turning them once during baking. Remove them from the oven, and transfer to the skillet with the tomato sauce. Gently simmer the meatballs and sauce together for 10 to 15 minutes over gentle heat.
Meanwhile, boil some spaghetti, drain, place back in the pan and add some of the tomato sauce. Place back on top of the stove to heat pasta and sauce together for a couple of minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, add the meatballs, and serve with fresh Parmiggiano cheese.
(makes 15 meatballs, 3-4 servings, depending on who is eating… 😉
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: My modifications involved baking, instead of frying the meatballs, and simmering them in tomato sauce afterward. This is my secret to great meatballs, without the harsh outer surface often associated with the fried version. I’ve seen (and tried) recipes in which the meatballs are cooked in the sauce from beginning to end, but the oven-roasting in my version intensifies their flavor and color.
I also increased the amount of black olives in the meatball mixture. The original recipe called for two olives (!!!!). Sorry, but two diced olives in a pound of meat doesn’t do it for us, Kalamata-lovers that we are. Feel free to adapt to your own tastes.
Chef Alajmo has two other recipes that made my mouth water in this issue of Food and Wine: Risotto with Capers and Espresso, and Pappardelle with Smoked Butter and Herbs. Makes me want to catch a plane to Italy and reserve a table for two at his restaurant, Le Calandre.
ONE YEAR AGO: Korean-Style Pork with Cabbage Slaw