I know it’s not the ideal start to a long weekend when two days ago it was 85° out and I was looking to turn the air conditioner on and then we wake up this morning and it’s 42° outside and windy and rainy. Since the weekend doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better until Monday, today is a good day to do a recipe for a classic spaghetti and meatballs. This recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated, is designed if you’re cooking for a large crowd so you want to keep that in mind if you are going to use this recipe. When I do it for just the three of us I generally have to adjust it down a little bit and we still end up with enough sauce and meatballs left over where we can freeze some for another several meals.
Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd
2 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons water
2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3 large eggs
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
6 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, grated
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
6 cups tomato juice
6 tablespoons dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons salt
Grated Parmesan cheese
For the meatballs: adjust oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 450°. Set wire racks into aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheets and spray the racks with vegetable oil spray.
Combine the bread crumbs and the buttermilk in a large bowl and let sit, mashing occasionally with a fork, until a smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and allow it to soften for 5 minutes.
Mix the ground beef, ground pork, eggs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and gelatin mixture into the bread crumb mixture using your hands. Pinch off and roll the mixture into 2-inch meatballs (about 40 meatballs total) and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the meatballs are well browned, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking process.
For the sauce: while the meatballs bake, heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, wine, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
Remove the meatballs from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300°. Gently nestled the meatballs into the sauce. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook until the meatballs are firm and the sauce has thickened, about one hour. The sauce in the meatballs can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To re-heat, drizzle 1/2 cup of water over the sauce, without stirring, and re-heat on the lower-middle rack of a 325° oven for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, bring 10 quarts of water to a boil in a large 12-quart pot. Add the pasta and salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
Gently stir the basil and parsley into the sauce and season with sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Add 2 cups of sauce (without meatballs) to the pasta and toss to combine. Add the reserved cooking water as needed to adjust the consistency. Serve, topping the individual portions with more tomato sauce and several meatballs and passing the Parmesan cheese
As I said, this recipe makes a lot of food. They outline it as having enough to serve 12 people, but if you make the full recipe I think it could even serve more than that. I have always gotten more than 40 meatballs out of the recipe so we always have plenty left over for uses down the road. Their recipe also calls for some prosciutto to be used in the meatball mixture, which I leave out. I do like the way that the meatballs come out when they are baked in the oven and then the entire concoction with the sauce is placed in the oven again. The thickness of the sauce and the taste of the meatballs seems to be a lot better to me. You could easily served this with any type of pasta that you wish and I love to make some garlic bread to go along with it.
That’s the recipe for today. We did some shopping this morning so I did get a few things and to make over the next few days or so. Tonight I’ll be making a pork tenderloin dinner so you can check back for the recipe on that one. I also picked up some baby back ribs and the makings for some meatloaf so will be having those this week as well. I do plan to head up to Adams and see if they have anything else interesting that we might use for dinner this week. Check back and see what we come up with. Until then, enjoy the rest of your rainy day and enjoy your meal!