Spaghetti and Meatballs

Want to make someone feel really special this weekend? Make them one of my all-time favorite dinners – Spaghetti and Meatballs from the April 2004 issue of Everyday Food. I’ve been making this one for years, and I’m convinced that it’s one of the best spaghetti and meatball recipes out there.

These meatballs are a little unusual because there’s no ground beef in the recipe; they’re actually half turkey and half pork. (Perhaps that’s why they’re so good?) They’re also perfect for freezing, which makes me love them even more.

To make the meatballs, I whisked together 1 large egg, 1/4 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl. I stirred in half of a large onion (finely chopped) and 3 minced garlic cloves. Next, I added 1/2 cup of plain dried breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese, 8 ounces of ground pork, 8 ounces of ground turkey (93% lean is perfect), and 1/2 teaspoon of Italian dressing. Using clean hands, I gently combined the ingredients and formed the mixture into 16 balls. To achieve the best results possible, I put the meatballs on a plate, covered them with plastic wrap, and refrigerated them for 30 minutes before cooking.

When the chill time had passed, I heated 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. (I also put a pot of water on to boil so the pasta could cook while the meatballs and sauce simmered.) I added half of the meatballs to the skillet and browned them on all sides (about 5 minutes). I transferred the browned meatballs to a plate using a slotted spoon and repeated the process with a second tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining meatballs.

Once I had all the meatballs browned and on the plate, I added the second half of the onion (finely chopped) to the skillet, reduced the heat to medium-low, and cooked until it was soft (about 5 minutes). I added 3 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning and cooked for 30 seconds. I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper and then stirred in a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and 3/4 cup of water. I placed the meatballs in the sauce, covered the skillet, and simmered everything until the meatballs were cooked through (about 20 minutes).

Following package directions, I timed my spaghetti to cook during the last 12 minutes of meatball/sauce simmer time. I drained the spaghetti and placed it in a serving dish. When the meatballs had finished cooking, I removed them from the skillet, topped the spaghetti with the sauce, topped the sauce with the meatballs, and sprinkled it all with fresh grated Parmesan to serve.

These meatballs are just to die for. They’re moist and exceptionally well-seasoned, and they have great texture to boot. (As long as you use 93% lean turkey and give them the 30 minutes in the refrigerator, they’ll be firm enough to dish up but they’ll easily give way to a fork. No knives necessary!) Don’t even get me started on the sauce… It’s light, fresh, and perfectly garlicky. I would make it on its own to eat with pasta, meatballs or no meatballs. To me, spaghetti and meatballs is one of the classic comfort foods, and this recipe really – REALLY – does the dish justice. Mmmm!

TIPS: I’ve seen few meat counters that carry fresh ground turkey and pork, so I usually have to buy the meats in 1-pound packages. Since that gives me exactly twice the amount of meat I need, I just make a double batch of the meatballs and freeze them. I thaw them overnight when I’m ready to cook them, and I just start from the meatball-browning step of the recipe. When the meatballs are already ready to go, I can get this meal from stove to table in 30 minutes or less.

Recipe link: Spaghetti and Meatballs

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