SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS

by - 5:47 AM

This is one of the most popular and recognized Italian dishes in America, but it is
not eaten in Italy. Strange, you might say; but this dish evolved from the kitchens of
the early Italian immigrants in America. It has become one of the favorite recipes in
Lidia’s Family Table. Here in America, meat was abundant, unlike in Italy, so on
Sunday, the day when families gather at the table, the sauce for the spaghetti was
enriched with meatballs. What more can I say, except for mangia!
SERVES 6
FOR THE SAUCE
Two 35-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), with their liquid
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 fresh bay leaves, or 3 dried
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
FOR THE MEATBALLS
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour for dredging
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 pound spaghetti
Pass the tomatoes and their liquid through a food mill fitted with the fine disc, or crush
by hand. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a 4-to-5-quart pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion,
and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, add the crushed
red pepper and bay leaves, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil,
then lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30
minutes.
Crumble the pork and beef into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, ⅓ cup
grated cheese, the parsley, and garlic over the meat. Beat the egg with the salt and
pepper in a small bowl until blended, then pour over the meat mixture. Mix the
ingredients with clean hands just until evenly blended, and shape the meat mixture into
1½-inch balls. Dredge the meatballs in the flour until lightly but evenly coated.
Heat ¼ cup olive oil and the vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high
heat. Slip as many meatballs into the skillet as will fit without crowding. Fry, turning as
necessary, until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Adjust the heat as the
meatballs cook to prevent them from overbrowning. Remove the meatballs, and repeat
if necessary with the remaining meatballs. Add the browned meatballs to the tomato
sauce, and cook, stirring gently with a wooden spoon, until no trace of pink remains at
the center of the meatballs, about 30 minutes.
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Stir the
spaghetti into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta,
semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta, and
return it to the empty pot. Spoon in about 2 cups of the tomato sauce, tossing well until
the pasta is coated with sauce. Remove from the heat, and toss in the remaining ⅔ cup
grated cheese. Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve the pasta in warm bowls or piled high on a large warm platter. Spoon a little
more of the sauce over the pasta, and pass the remaining sauce separately. Pass the
meatballs family-style in a bowl, or top the bowls or platter of spaghetti with them.

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