Sunday, September 4, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs

According to our local weatherman, meteorological fall starts on September 1st. Mother nature must have been listening as it was 95º last Thursday and it was a windy 56º on this morning's walk.  I always welcome the change in the weather as I'm able to shift gears and start putting some heartier meals on the table.

Tonight we are having spaghetti and meatballs. This meal has been a favorite of mine since I was a little kid. I can vividly remember being in the company of my grandfather, Frank J. Dunleavy, private detective extraordinaire, and he would take me down to 8th and Hennepin to have lunch at Cafe di Napoli. The restaurant opened in 1938 and made it all the way to 2005 before it closed.

Cafe di Napoli wasn't a gourmet experience, but it offered really good Italian food. My grandfather preferred the room with the giant Mount Vesuvius mural on the wall. I'd order my favorite dish, spaghetti and meatballs, and he would order his favorite dish, Crown Royal, rocks.

I am in possession of the actual Cafe di Napoli recipe for their meatballs. But I'm not going to share it with you as I found something I like a whole lot better. But I will come clean right now. When it comes to making meatballs, I am a bona fide, Tiger Woods cheater. I don't make my meatballs from scratch. I use Wee Willy's Spicy Italian Meatball Mix. Makes the best Italian meatballs I've ever tasted, bar none. You can get it here: . I buy a dozen bottles at a time to make sure I always have some in my pantry.

Making the meatballs is very easy. Letting them cool after cooking helps to make them nice and dense so that they do not fall apart during their extended simmer in the sauce. And the sauce takes on an extra richness thanks to the flavor from our roasted meatballs. This recipe serves six.

Ingredients for the Meatballs
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 pound ground beef
1, 4.4 ounce jar of Wee Willy's Spicy Italian Meatball Mix
1 cup of water

Ingredients for the Spaghetti and Sauce
56 ounces of your favorite tomato sauce*
16 ounces spaghetti (Garofalo preferred)
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients. Mix thoroughly by hand to create a large ball.
  3. Divide ball in half and roll into two smaller balls. Keep dividing subsequent balls in half until you have 16 meatballs.
  4. Put meatballs on a foil-lined tray and place in oven. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  5. Put meatballs in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with the 56 ounces of tomato sauce. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  6. Fill a large pot with water, add salt and bring to a boil. Cook pasta for one minute less than package instructions. Drain, add olive oil and toss to coat noodles.
  7. Divide spaghetti among serving plates. Top each helping of spaghetti serving with 2 meatballs, a generous ladle or two of tomato sauce and a quarter cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Serve.
Wine pairing: Nebbiolo, Sangiovese or Zinfandel

*Look, I already admitted that I'm a cheater...using a store-bought meatball mix. If you follow this recipe, you will become a cheater, too. If you feel bad about that, you can do penance by making a double recipe of Marcella Hazan's World Famous Red Sauce from scratch for this meal: . If you don't feel bad about cheating, then just grab your favorite store-bought sauce and go all in. We've all got a little Tiger in us.

P.S. Happy 59th birthday to Steve Hirtz!

1 comment:

  1. could I get the original recipe for the meatballs from you? thank you!