The jones for last night's spaghetti and meatballs began on Friday night when we watched an episode of Lidia Bastianich's show on which she made the dish. Besides the usual lust that almost any talk of any pasta induces in me, her meatballs were especially intriguing because of the heavy proportion of finely minced vegetables that went into the meat mixture. She used an Italian word for the ground vegetables that sounded like what the Italian word for paste might be, sounded like 'pistecca'.
I didn't hear any measurements, but to go into what appeared to be about 3/4 lb each beef, veal and pork, she filled the bowl on her food processor almost full with large pieces of onion, celery and carrot, about equal amounts each. It was a surprisingly large amount, and for binding there was only maybe a cup of dry bread crumbs, some cheese, and just one egg. I thought it would be way too wet to hold together--I've never seen anything quite like it.
But they were divine. It was the best spaghetti and meatballs I've ever had. It's not a dish I frankly ever make at home but tend to order in family style immigrant-Italian restaurants, where the meatballs are typically clunkier in texture and not as well seasoned. I've always liked those too, but for my tastes this recipe sets a new standard. The minced vegetables lighten up and refine the meat textures, and the flavor is absolutely outstanding.
For my version, I lightened up the meat mixture by using about 1.25 lb each beef and turkey. Turkey is not only lower in cholesterol, but makes fabulously velvetty, fine-crumbed meatballs and I substitute it for other meats just for this reason anyway. I used fresh soft bread crumbs instead of a dry commercial product, and two eggs instead of one just to be sure. Otherwise used what were fair approximates based on what I saw.
1.25 lb ground beef
1.25 lb ground turkey
1 large yellow onion, big dice
2 smallish carrots peeled and cut into 1" lengths
3 celery ribs peeled and cut into 1" lengths
1 cup soft bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated imported parmesan
About 2 tsp kosher salt
Using a food processor, mince the vegetables and place in a large bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix by hand until well-incorporated. Form into meatballs just slightly larger than a golf ball and arrange on a metal baking tray. This will make about 25-30 meatballs. Roast for 20 minutes at 425 F and then drop into your waiting sauce*.
*My sauce cooked while the meatballs were in the oven. It was made out of sauteed onion and garlic, olive oil, fresh bay leaves and chili flakes with a 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes and half a cup of white wine. It was plenty to handle the quantity of meatballs as we do not care for heavily sauced pasta.
Didn't take any pictures of the finished product, but for other purposes I did take a shot of the spaghetti I made for the dish, so what the heck, here it is.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov