Ahh, Valentine’s Day. The day to celebrate love, adorn you significant other with gifts, and have a wonderful night in a romantic corner of a candlelit restaurant. Right? Not so much…
In my experiences, this night is not usually the best night to go out for a great dinner as it just seems like most restaurants this particular evening are over-crowded, over-priced, and un-imaginative. It’s about getting out as many plates as you can as quickly as you can so the line in the kitchen does not crash and the restaurant ends up with a crowd of starry-eyed lovers rioting.
My advice would be to stay home. Relax. Cook a meal. And, really, what says I love you more than a giant plate of carbs and hand shaped balls of meat paired with a lovely Chianti? Plus I made a batch of these delicious and beautiful cupcakes. Now that’s love!
Spaghetti and Meatballs with Marinara Sauce
- 2 Cups Flour (I use all purpose, seems to work just fine)
- 3 Eggs, whisked in bowl
- Big Pinch of Salt
Mix flour and salt in food processor. Slowly add eggs through chute until dough comes together. You want dough to look like little pebbles. If it’s not coming together at all, add about a tablespoon of water. If dough looks too sticky, add some flour until it resembles the pebbles.
Dump dough onto work surface and role into a ball. Knead dough: Flatten the dough into a bit of a disc shape. Pull back of dough to front of dough and press down with the palm of your hand. Rotate a quarter clockwise and continue for about 2 minutes.
Wrap in plastic and let rest on the counter for about 15 minutes and up to an hour.
When you are ready to put through pasta attachment, cut dough into 6 pieces. Keep pieces you are not working with under plastic wrap. Run dough through flat attachment multiple times, working from the widest setting on down. If you notice the dough getting sticky, rub a little flour on it. I only took my down to 7 (it goes to 8). I then switched attachments and ran the dough through for spaghetti. I then toss the pasta with some additional flour on a sheet pan. Continue on until all pasta has been rolled out.
When cooking pasta, I really salt my water. I recommend making it “as salty as the ocean”. That is where your flavor comes from. If you make this whole batch of pasta, cook in 2 shifts. Keep stirring using tongs as it cooks so it does not stick together. It probably only needs to cook for about 3-4 minutes. DO NOT OVER-COOK. I cannot stress how critical this is. Drain and use immediately.
This dough makes enough for about 4 people. If you don’t need it all right now, wrap up and freeze what you don’t need.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 pound diced pancetta
- 2 large Spanish onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- Kosher Salt
- 4 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
- 4 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum San Marzano tomatoes
Coat a large sauce pot with olive oil and add the pancetta. Bring the pot to a medium-high heat and cook the pancetta for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, season generously with salt and stir to coat with olive oil. Cook the onions for 6 to 7 minutes stirring frequently. The onions should become very soft and aromatic but have no color. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes stirring frequently.
Pass the tomatoes through the food mill. Be sure to pass all of the pulp through the holes leaving only the stems and the seeds, and be sure to scrape the pulp off of the bottom of the food mill. That’s all of the big money stuff! Add the tomatoes to the pot and rinse out 1 of the empty tomato cans with water and add that water to the pot (about 2 to 3 cups). Season generously with salt and TASTE IT!!!! Tomatoes take a lot of salt. Season in baby steps and taste every step of the way. Cook the sauce for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally and tasting frequently.
Use the sauce right away on pasta or for any other tomato sauce need. This sauce can also be cooled and stored in the refrigerator for a few days and freezes really well.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, 1/4-inch dice
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground veal
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup water
Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil, add the onions and bring to a medium-high heat. Season the onions generously with salt and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. The onions should be very soft and aromatic but have no color. Add the garlic and the crushed red pepper and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl combine the meats, eggs, Parmigiano, parsley and bread crumbs. It works well to squish the mixture with your hands. Add the onion mixture and season generously with salt and squish some more. Add the water and do 1 final really good squish. The mixture should be quite wet. Test the seasoning of the mix by making a mini hamburger size patty and cooking it. The mixture should taste really good! If it doesn’t it is probably missing salt. Add more. Add more anyway.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Shape the meat into desired size. Some people like ’em big some people like ’em small. I prefer meatballs slightly larger than a golf ball. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake them in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through. If using right away, add them to your big pot of marinara sauce. If not using right away, they can be frozen for later use. Serve with pasta and sauce or just eat them straight out of the pot! YUM!
My notes from the recipe for Spaghetti with Meatballs in Marinara Sauce:
- Don’t feel obligated to make pasta from scratch. Use dried pasta if you prefer. No biggie at all. BUT, if you have the time, resources, etc, then by all means go for it. I received a pasta maker attachment for my Kitchenaide last year, and I love using it.
- I did mill my tomatoes, but I doubt it is the end of the world if you don’t. I had received a food mill for Christmas and had not had a chance to use it yet, so I was all about it for this recipe.
- I simmered my sauce for about 2 (ish) hours and was quite pleased with it. But, I would see no problem in going for the full 3.
- I did not have ground veal for my meatballs, so I just bulked up a bit on the pork and beef.
- I let my meatballs stew in my sauce for only about 15 minutes before I served it.
- After my pasta was cooked, I added some sauce to a sauté pan and kind of cooked my pasta and sauce together along with a giant handful of parmesan (oh, actually I used Grana Padano – very similar to Reggiano, but about half the cost. Great substitute if you don’t feel like going for full price but want the major parm flavor.) Then I plated my noodles and fished out a few meatballs from the sauce pot and added it to my dish.