Comfort Food for a Rainy Spring Day

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

I’m not quite ready to think spring yet. We’ve been having rain and dreary skies between bouts of stunningly beautiful weather.

So, last week, on a dark and wet day, I made spaghetti and meatballs. It was so satisfying, I’m sharing this recipe for the next time you have inclement weather and need some comfort food.

This is really a simple recipe if you take it in easy steps. 1) Shape and bake the meatballs. 2) Make the sauce. 3) Cook the pasta. 4) Toss together.

You can make the meatballs ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze them. If you’ve frozen them, just thaw in the fridge before heating the meatballs in the sauce. You can use a jar of commercial pasta sauce if you like, but the sauce below is genius—super-easy and delicious—and I say that because I borrowed the idea from one of my culinary heroes.

The sauce recipe is a complete takeoff of one by Marcella Hazan, the grand dame of Italian cooking. I altered the ingredients somewhat to suit my taste and for my convenience—using canned diced tomatoes, less butter and salt, and a shortened cooking time. However, when you dicker with the already-perfect recipe, you make it less perfect. So if you want the real thing, you can find the authentic version online.

Marcella, who passed away a few years ago, was the Julia Child of Italian cooking. In the 1970s, she introduced Americans to authentic Italian cuisine. It was groundbreaking at the time. If you haven’t already, check out her cookbooks. My treasured copy of her first book, The Classic Italian Cookbook, is falling apart from overuse.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
1 pound ground pork
½ cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped fresh basil (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, quartered
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound spaghetti
Shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

To make the meatballs: Heat oven to 450°F. In a medium bowl combine pork, panko, onion, basil if using, and salt. Mix lightly; do not knead or overmix, or meatballs will become tough. Form into 12 plum-size balls. Arrange in a 9- X 13-inch baking dish, spacing them apart, and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until meatballs are browned and the internal temperature reaches 160°F.; set aside.

To make the sauce: While the meatballs are cooking, in a large saucepan, add tomatoes and juice, butter, onion and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, uncovered, lower heat and gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the onion or chop it up and add it back to the sauce. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are heated through, about 3 minutes.

To make the spaghetti: During the last 20 minutes of simmer time for the sauce, cook spaghetti in rapidly boiling, salted water, following package directions; drain.

To assemble: Combine spaghetti with meatballs and sauce, tossing gently to coat all the strands of pasta with the sauce. Serve immediately. Pass the Parmigiano-Reggiano to sprinkle on top.

Makes 4 servings.

Sauce recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Butter, Tomato and Onion Sauce.

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Posted: Apr 16th by Sandy_Hu