Spaghetti and meatballs is Sundays at my Nana’s house. It’s family. It’s memories. As you can tell, it evokes a lot in me! She would grind her own meat to make the meatballs and painstakingly cook all day before we would come. My version this week was a pared down, simpler version of her magic that was put together quickly and left to cook for a few hours instead of working all day! I made the meatballs first.
The meatballs were so tender from cooking in the sauce for hours, and they also flavored the sauce so much. It was a beautiful symbiotic relationship! One bite and I was back in my Nana’s house. It made me miss her a whole lot. I hope you all enjoy this family classic! xoxo
It does not get much better or more classic than a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. This is a family recipe staple that is so incredible!
- 2 slices whole grain bread cubed small
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
- 1 whole egg
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat reserved from cooked bacon made earlier
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 whole onion peeled and quartered
- 1/2 cup fresh basil packed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes 28 oz size
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 pound spaghetti
- freshly grated pecorino romano cheese as needed for sprinkling on top
- First, make the meatballs. Combine the cubed bread and milk in a small bowl and set it aside. Let the bread absorb the milk for 5 minutes to make a panada. Meanwhile add the beef, pecorino romano, egg, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to a large mixing bowl. Squeeze the excess milk out of the bread when it is done sitting and add it to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix everything together thoroughly with clean hands.
- Take a small handful of the mixture and roll it into a meatball about the size of your palm. Repeat until the mixture is all used up and you have about 16 meatballs. Get out a large dutch oven and heat both the bacon fat and olive oil in it over medium high heat. Brown the meatballs in two batches so that the pan isn't over crowded. They need to cook for about 2 minutes on each side to just get brown. They do not need to cook through at this point. When they are done, remove them to a plate.
- While the meatballs cook, start on the sauce. Set up a food processor and combine the grape tomatoes, garlic, onion and basil in its bowl. Puree it until smooth. Set it aside. When the meatballs are all browned, remove them to a plate, drain off most of the grease and get the pot back onto the heat. Pour the aromatic puree into the pot and let it cook for a couple of minutes to bring out its flavor. Stir in the tomato paste and let it cook for another minute. Pour in the wine and let it cook off for another minute. Then finally pour in the crushed tomatoes and oregano and give the sauce a good stir. Return the meatballs back in. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Let the sauce cook for 3 hours, stirring it occasionally.
- When the sauce is almost done, get a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Salt it generously. Cook the spaghetti just until it is tender for about 8 minutes. While it cooks, reserve 1/4 cup of the starchy, salty cooking water and stir it into the sauce. When the spaghetti is done, scoop it right out of the water into the pot of sauce. Toss it all together well and then take the pot off of the heat. Scoop the pasta and meatballs into pretty bowls and top them with more pecorino romano on top. Serve immediately and enjoy!