Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Best spaghetti and meatballs

I go on food quests on occasion.  Really, they are recipe quests.  I want to make the best: pancakes, french toast, fajitas.  You get the picture.

To date, I've only been successful in all my many recipe quests in one category; spaghetti and meatballs.  It was a long journey.  I put my family through many (too many to think about) less than good meals of homemade spaghetti and meatballs before finally finding the recipe I think is tops in this category.  And I don't get a fight from Pete and the kids on this.  They think this is the bomb.

Or they're just sick of eating spaghetti and meatballs.

Either way, I think it rocks.

The recipe is by Chef Michael Symon.  I found it on cookingchannel.com so, in case you don't believe what I say here, you can check it out yourself.  The reviews are stellar.

The one drawback (if you look at it that way) is that this takes ALL DAY to cook.  I mean it.  6 to 8 hours of simmering on the stovetop.

But, my oh my is it worth it.

It's also not inexpensive.  You have to buy a rack of baby back ribs.  So, already you know this is gonna be good.  And, if  you consider this is for a nice Sunday night dinner with the family, it's the bomb.

Here's what you do.

Cut up your rack of ribs and cook them in a dutch oven in heated olive oil.  I had to do this in batches.  When you are done, throw in chopped onions (one large onion chopped) and 1 tsp kosher salt and sweat those onions.  Then add in 6 cloves of chopped garlic for just a minute or two.

Then you deglaze the pan with an ENTIRE bottle of white wine.  It calls for dry white wine.  I sent Pete to the corner market (i.e. the gas station) to get a bottle.  It cost a whopping $4.99 but said it was a dry white wine.  And the sauce still came out delicioso.  So, I guess I'm saying don't spend a fortune on expensive wine (and keep your local convenient store in business).

Throw in two 28 oz. cans of tomatoes.  On this ingredient, I did not cheap out.  I bought the beautiful, tasty San Marzano tomatoes.  Well worth the couple of extra bucks in my mind.  Add in 3 TBSP fresh oregano leave (I used 1 1/2 TBSP dry), 1 TBSP crushed red pepper flakes (less if you don't like a little heat) and 1 bay leaf.

And here's what I think is the ingredient that makes the whole thing.... a 2-3 inch parmesan rind.  Oh yeah.

Then, sit back, let it simmer and come together for 6 to 8 hours.  And, let me tell you, I was panicked 3 hours in when it still tasted like horrible, cheap white wine.  But then, magically, something happened around hour 4 or so.

It became kick butt sauce.

But it doesn't end there.  I said this was spaghetti AND meatballs.  So, here is the meatball recipe from Michael Symon.

1/3 C olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 minced shallot
1 1/2 C diced day old wheat bread
1/2 C whole milk (I used 2%)
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
3/4 C whole milk ricotta
1/2 C fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 C grated Parmesan
1 tsp kosher salt
1 egg

Sweat the garlic and shallot in 1 tbsp of olive oil for about 2 to 3 mins.  Meanwhile, soak the bread in the milk.
In a separate bowl, combine the beef with the ricotta, basil, parsley, parmesan, salt, egg and the cooked shallots and garlic.  Ring the milk out of the bread and add it to meat mixture.

Form meat mix into 2 inch balls (about 1/4 C each).  Heat remaining olive oil in pan.  Brown meatballs on all sides.   Place in simmering sauce, about 30 minutes.

Then, there is the third element of this terrific trifecta, the spaghetti, which never gets any love.  But in Symon's recipe, he makes the spaghetti sing.  He cooks it al dente, as usual, in salted water.  Drains it, then tosses it in a couple of cups of the sauce, so all the noodles are coated.  Can you say YUM?

Put a meatball or two and a rib or two on top of the pasta, and pig out!

Soooooo good I'm making it again this weekend.


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