With the mercury falling faster than the stock market, I decided to bridge the gap between summer salad and winter braise using the last batch of tomatoes ripened under the waning summer sun to make spaghetti and meatballs. As usual when I’m making an old favorite, I went searching through my archives to see how I’d made them the last time. But when the search returned zero results, I realized that I hadn’t posted a spaghetti and meatballs recipe. Could it be that I’d gone over four years without once making one of my all-time favorite dishes?
My lazy Sunday supper suddenly turned into an exercise in measuring, tasting, adjusting and photographing, a process I always go through when developing a recipe for this blog but one I’d hoped to avoid this Sunday. Thankfully all that effort was not spent in vain as this is probably the best version of spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever made!
Now words like “best” are so subjective I should probably qualify it with what I value in a good meatball. For me, meatballs should be melt-in-your-mouth tender yet chock full of meaty flavor. Gently kissed with the verdant flavor of herbs and coated in a sweet sun-ripened tomato sauce, meatballs should never be greasy or heavy.
I knew that adding ricotta and bread crumbs make meatballs more tender, but because both are nearly flavorless, they tend to dilute the flavor of the meat. That’s why I like to add some sautéed onions, garlic and tomatoes as well as a generous helping of parmesan cheese to give these meatballs some ummph.
Browning them in a frying pan, then preparing the sauce in the same pan incorporates the flavorful brown fond that develops in the pan as the meatballs fry. Simmering them with fresh tomatoes and onions not only helps distribute the flavors between the meat and the sauce, it also renders them tender enough to eat without a knife. Lastly I like boiling the noodles a little on the first side and combining them with the sauce so some of the sauce soaks into every strand of spaghetti.
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