Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pasta for a Crowd with Homemade Meatballs and Sauce

This New Years Eve, my friends and I rented a house for the weekend. I was in charge of cooking, and everyone was arriving at different times, so I wanted to make something that could be prepared ahead and be served whenever the group was ready. I decided on homemade meatballs and tomato sauce over spaghetti as it appeals to anyone and is easy enough to make in large quantities that increasing the amount you make doesn't create a hassle.  I added some garlic bread and a nice salad, and we had a great meal for a crowd.

With meatballs, the key is getting the right texture so that they stay moist but don't fall apart. Too much egg and not enough breadcrumbs, the balls may fall apart when cooking. Too far the other way, and they might dry out while cooking. Once you get the right balance, just add herbs, garlic, onion, and seasoning, and you'll have delicious meatballs that are perfect for pasta or sandwiches.

For the sauce, I like to start with onions, carrots, and celery as my base, add garlic, tomato paste, salt, sugar, pepper, basil, and parsley, and then finally San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes. I let this mixture simmer anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and then use a hand blender to get the smooth texture that sticks to the pasta. If I'm adding anything that I don't want to puree, like mushrooms, I cook it separately and add in once the sauce is blended and smooth.

Serves 6
For the sauce
2 tablespoons
2 cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1 medium onion chopped
2 medium carrots chopped
2 ribs celery chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 cup basil
1/2 cup parsley
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
12 oz sliced white or crimini mushrooms

For the meatballs
2.5 lbs ground beef or ground beef, veal, and pork
1 medium onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/2 cup basil chopped
1/2 cup parsley chopped
2 eggs
1 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

For the garlic bread
1 french baguette sliced in half along the horizontal
1 stick butter softened
4 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup basil chopped
1 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

To Cook
Tomato Sauce 
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and add onion, carrot, and celery until starting to brown
  2. Add garlic and tomato paste cook for another 3-4 minutes
  3. Add herbs, seasoning, and tomatoes and simmer for 30-60 minutes
  4. Using a hand blender or food processor (in batches) blend the sauce until smooth
  5. In a separate frying pan, heat olive oil and add mushrooms; sautee until brown
  6. Add mushrooms and pan juice from mushrooms to sauce and stir
  7. Mix with cooked pasta and serve with or without meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Mix meat, onions, garlic, herbs, seasoning, bread crumbs, and eggs in a large bowl until thoroughly incorporated (adjust amount of bread crumbs for desired wetness, mixture should be moist but not too eggy)
  3. Roll mixture into 1"-1.5" diameter balls and set on baking sheet
  4. Brown the outside of the balls in a cast iron skillet or frying pan, flipping once and then return to the baking sheet
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Test for doneness by pressing a few meatballs with your finger, if they have a little give but don't leave an imprint, they're done
Garlic Bread
  1. Mix butter, garlic, herbs, and parmesan and spread generously on both halves of bread
  2. Sprinkle cheese on both halves, put back together, wrap in foil, and bake for 30 minutes
  3. Remove from oven, let cool for 3-5 minutes, slice and serve


Anonymous said...

I noticed that you used whole tomatoes for your sauce. Could I also use canned crushed or chopped tomatoes?

Ty's Kitchen said...

The reason I use whole tomatoes is that the company that cans them is required to use actual whole tomatoes. For crushed or diced, they could be using the tomato scraps...

There's no problem using the other varieties, but you'll have a more consistent experience with the whole ones.