This recipe is deeply rich and comforting, makes great leftovers, and can be made ahead of time during a busy week. I like to make a large amount and freeze leftovers so I can be a hero Mom on a random busy night, but if you don’t want a huge amount cut down to one pound of meatballs. One important note, I always use bucatini instead of spaghetti. It’s richer and the hollow pasta absorbs the sauce for a beautiful bite.
2 pounds ground beef
1 onion, grated
4 cloves garlic chopped fine
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley
½ cup breadcrumbs (Not panko. You can buy preseasoned Italian style and it works lovely)
1 large onion chopped fine
½ cup fennel chopped fine
5 cloves garlic
72 ounces of tomato puree ( you could make this yourself, but honestly I usually don’t have the time. If your feeling fancy San Marzano tomatoes are always the best)
1-2 cups of red wine to taste (I prefer a bold wine and rich wine here, but please don’t spend too much money)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup each fresh chopped basil and flat-leaf parsley
2 Boxes of bucatini ( one for tonight, one for leftovers)
How to make:
Spaghetti and meatballs is a bit of a project. So start by getting into the right vibe. Put on your cooking clothes and fuzzy socks, but on a great album or favorite movie in the background. Take a deep breath and relax. If you are stressed it never comes out. It can’t be rushed. Maybe pour a glass of red wine since you need to open it anyway.
Now that you’re settled and centered, grate or finely dice the onion. Dice the garlic and parsley. Season with garlic salt. In a large pan, drizzle olive oil and cook down. You need to cook it way, way down. Not just translucent but fully soft and jammy. I sometimes add a ¼ cup of water to help cook it all the way out. This usually takes me 20 or so minutes.
While you’re waiting, place your raw ground beef in a large mixing bowl and let it come to room temperature. This is not a place I would recommend lean beef or ultra-lean meat. If you are using seasoned bread crumbs, taste and ensure they don’t need extra seasoning. Bland bread crumbs will make bland meatballs. If using unseasoned, add garlic salt, garlic powder, and onion powder, approximately a tablespoon of garlic salt, and 2 to 3 tablespoons of other seasonings. I like the garlic salt because it usually contains dried herbs, if you happen to have dried parsley, dried basil, dried oregano, throw some in. You want to taste the bread crumbs and think MMMMM I’d eat a bowl of that like potato chips! If you find yourself tasting it a third time “just to check”, you’ve cracked it
Now mix your jammy onion, garlic, and parsley mixture, those seasoned bread crumbs, the meat, and two eggs. You want to mix gently with clean hands. No kneading, no mixer, just gently fold the ingredients together, until just combined. No one wants a dense meatball. Take your largest casserole pan and oil the bottom. Mix the meatballs into large, softball-sized balls and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. They should be browned on the outside, but still, slightly pink inside so they can finish in the sauce.
While your meatballs are baking, it’s time for the sauce. YUM. Grab a big pot. There is just nothing better than making tomato sauce, it’s so relaxing. Dice the onion, fennel, and garlic. Reserve the Garlic fronds for later. Toss in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook on medium heat until translucent and completely softened. Add tomatoes, red wine, and season with salt and pepper. I usually add some garlic salt. Bring to a boil and then put on a low simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. After about half an hour add the fresh herbs, chopped fennel fronds, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Don’t use all the herbs, save a little to garnish.
When the meatballs are cooked, gently add them to the sauce. Take care to add all of that juice from the bottom, deglazing with red wine if necessary. Gently fold all of that in and cook on low for about 10 - 20 minutes so the meatballs are fully cooked and the sauce absorbs all that meaty flavor.
About half an hour before Shabbat, boil the water for bucatini. Add salt to the water and cook until al dente. Drain and toss with olive oil and garlic salt. Gently portion out tonight’s serving of meatballs and sauce and toss with bucatini, I usually do this in the same pot I cooked the bucatini in. Garnish with reserved fresh herbs and serve.