My mother was a pretty good cook and it was something we told her to keep her spirits up. But it was true. A southern girl, born and raised in Texas, married to a Louisianan, you can imagine our meals. Fried chicken, biscuits, gravy, hot water cornbread, grits, potato salad (with egg and mustard), kidney stew, gumbo, ribs, neck bones, catfish, chitterlings, batter fried tripe, etc. Her not so “hidden talent” was Mexican food. Not Tex-Mex but real Mexican food that included chicken enchiladas, burritos, soft tacos, chile rellenos(using freshly roasted peppers) and of course chili. The chili and beef burritos she made contained chopped meat, not ground and there were no beans in the chili. When she made chili beans (a kind of thick stew), she used ground meat and beans, when she made chili, she made chili and served it with warm flour tortillas.
She also made a lot of traditionally, American comfort foods such as pot roast, beef stew, chicken pot pie (baked in her big black skillet), chicken and dumplings, lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs.
The spaghetti and meatballs were always served with garlic bread and salad. Back in the day, she would finely mince garlic to add to the butter, but later on she just dumped in garlic powder like everybody else. Hey, as she used to say, “even iron wears out”.
I haven’t made or eaten spaghetti and meatballs for probably over a decade. I forgot about it or just dismissed it as unsophisticated, children’s food. Of course it didn’t help that the kids were mad for “cans”. Cans meaning Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs, spaghetti and franks, etc. You know, ABC macaroni type things. This stuff was imported from the U.S. and was a treat for the kids on weekends when they would beg, “Please can I have a can?” Easy for us.
Anyway, spaghetti and meatballs, when made with the same attention given to loftier repasts, is gourmet comfort food. Garlic bread, a good fresh salad and an appropriate wine; I was going to suggest Chianti but I used a Bourgogne Cote Chalonnaise for the sauce, continued it for the meal and it was so right!
For this recipe, I cooked my sauce most of the day on a really low flame. I like thick sauce that adheres to the pasta. I did not brown my meat balls in oil but instead baked them in the oven. For the garlic bread, I dumped in the garlic powder just like everybody else. I also decided to go for the spaghettoni pasta, a bit thicker than spaghetti.
SPAGHETTONI AND MEATBALLS
1 small onion chopped
3-4 large cloves of garlic minced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
2 basil leaves
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup of red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
3 slices of coarse bread soaked in water, then squeezed dry
1 small onion chopped
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
Note: I made 12 large meatballs from this quantity and froze the rest.
1lb spaghettoni or spaghetti
For the sauce: Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, sugar, wine and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 2 hours. Low, low flame.
For the meat balls: Mix meats, bread, onion, parsley, garlic powder,Parmesan and eggs. Knead together to blend well. Form into balls. Brown in oven for 25 minutes at 350 or brown in olive oil in a skillet on the stove top.
When the sauce has simmered for at least 2 hours, add the meatballs to the sauce and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain. Serve sauce on top of pasta, adding 2-3 meatballs per serving and top with grated Parmesan.
Wine suggestion: Chianti, Merlot or Bourgogne Cote Chalonnaise