What is more basic and warm for an autumnal weekday dinner than spaghetti and meatballs? This simple, no-frills version has all the flavors one expects from this dish without adding any "signature touches" or incorporating any vapid culinary trends. In fact, this recipe was formulated by reading countless spaghetti and meatball recipes and reducing them to what was really important for the dish. Try this the next time you're not sure what to make but want to keep it easy. Or the next time you want to be a Nigella Lawson cookbook photo come-to-life: happy in the kitchen, drinking a glass of Chianti, gingerly crafting a dish you know will turn out perfectly. You won't be disappointed. Neither will the rugrats. Just keep them out of the Chianti, depending on your parenting style.
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or 1/2 pound each ground veal, pork and beef)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 large (2 small) clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp olive oil, filtered or unfiltered
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 large (3-4 small) cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup beef stock (low sodium if not homemade)
28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1/4 cup or a small handful loosley packed parsley leaves, chopped
8 large basil leaves, chiffonade
3/4 pound dried spaghetti
Preheat oven to 425F.
Place the meat in a large glass mixing bowl. Add the Worcestershire, egg, bread crumbs, oregano, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper.
Thoroughly mix by hand or with a fork.
Roll into 1-2 inch meatballs and place on a foiled, oiled or non-stick cookie sheet. You will end up with about 16 meatballs. Bake 12 minutes. Bigger meatballs will require longer.
While those bake, heat a pot over high heat in which to make the sauce. Add the oil and swirl it around the hot pot. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and reduce the heat to medium. Saute about 5 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more until fragrant. Always take care to not burn garlic.
Stir in the beef stock and the tomatoes, hand crushing the tomatoes as you add them. (It is possible to use a can of already crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzanos, if you want a smoother sauce.) Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
Add the parsley and basil and cook 5 minutes more. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer another 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place a large pot of water over medium-high heat to boil for the spaghetti. Generously salt the water. A pinch, or even a teaspoon, won't work here. You will need to add a full tablespoon or more of kosher salt depending on the amount of water. Taste the water; it should taste like the ocean. Once at a roaring boil, add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain. Never, ever rinse pasta! Rinsing pasta strips away the starch so that the sauce cannot stick to the noodles.
Toss the hot drained pasta with a couple ladles of the sauce. Transfer the pasta to a pasta platter. Top with the meatballs and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with some cheese and pass the rest at the table. Serve with a crusty baguette, green salad and plenty of dry red wine.
You should be able to prep and cook this meal in an hour.
Serves 4-6. Or 3 big Italian-American men.