Spaghetti with Veal Meatballs
- 2 cups fresh bread crumbs, made from day-old bread
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (2 ounces)
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage or ½ teaspoon dried sage
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lbs ground veal
- 6 oz ground pork
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup hearty red wine, such as Chianti or Shiraz
- One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher Salt
- 2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
1. To make the meatballs: combine the bread crumbs, milk and cream together in a medium bowl and let stand until the crumbs are softened by the milk, about 3 minutes. Add the Romano, eggs, parsley, salt, thyme, sage, garlic powder, and black pepper, and mix well. Add the veal and pork. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together just until combined--do not over mix or the meatballs will be heavy. Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes so the mixture can firm up a bit.
2. Using wet hands rinsed under cold water, and scooping about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture for each meatball, divide and shape the meat mixture into 24 equal meatballs (you can use a food portion scoop, if you wish) and place them on a platter or baking sheet. Loosely cover the meatballs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes to 2 hours.
3. Meanwhile, start the sauce: Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the tomatoes, water, oregano, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
4. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Working in batches without crowding, add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally and adding more oil to the skillet as needed, until they are browned, 6 to 8 minutes (Wait for a crust to form on the underside of the meatballs before turning them.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate. Pour off the fat in the skillet. Add about ½ cup water to the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Stir the deglazed mixture into the sauce.
5. Carefully add the meatballs to the sauce, making sure they are submerged in the sauce. (Add more hot water to the sauce if needed.) Adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering and partially cover the saucepan to keep the sauce from reducing too quickly. Cook, occasionally stirring to avoid scorching, until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 45 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, stir in the basil.
6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti and cook, according to the package directions, according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain well and return the spaghetti to the cooking pot.
7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a serving platter. Remove and discard the bay leaf from the sauce. Stir about 3 cups of the sauce into the spaghetti. Transfer the spaghetti to a serving bowl and top with the remaining sauce. Serve immediately with the meatballs, and the Romano passed on the side.
For Turkey Meatballs
Substitute regular ground turkey (93 percent lean, not extra-lean ground turkey breast) for the veal.
For Braised Meatballs:
Many fine cooks swear by this method, which skips the browning step and ensures tender, melt in your mouth meatballs. After the sauce has simmered for about 20 minutes, one at a time, drop the raw meatballs into the simmering sauce, letting each meatball cook for about 15 seconds to firm slightly before adding another. Be careful when moving the meatballs while making room for more in the saucepan to avoid breaking them. Once the meatballs have been added, adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering, and cook as directed.
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