Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quick Spaghetti and Meatballs...

When we moved out to Charlotte, we decided to sell Jeff's commuter car for several reasons, which means I've been driving him back and forth to work so I'd still have a vehicle to scoot around with. This has been working out well, especially not having to pay for parking everyday downtown - however, there has been one downside... I don't have as much time to play around in the kitchen making dinner!

Case in point with tonight's dish, Quick Spaghetti and Meatballs (it did have "30-minute" in the title, but it took slightly longer with our changes!). Not only was this fairly speedy to make, but I'll be swiping some of the components for tomorrow night's dinner - score!

The meatballs were the main time saver here by simply removing the casings from a few links of well-seasoned hot Italian fresh sausage (I used turkey) and rolling the meat into balls. They are slightly different in texture as there are no binders thrown in, but I found it to work fairly well - it was a bit sticky to work with, but dipping your fingers in water helps to keep your hands clean. You could even bang them out with a small scooper to make it even easier - I think a tablespoon cookie scoop would be about the right size, though make sure you clean it well before using it to make cookies again!

Use the same pot you are going to make it in to brown the meatballs, giving the sauce a boost by having it absorb all those caramelized bits stuck on the bottom. I do have one suggestion - if you don't think you can fit them all in without crowding the pan, do this in two batches so the meatballs attain those golden crusty edges, rather than steaming in their juices.

Next up was the sauce, but I did end up having to make a few changes to what the original recipe called for - it just didn't seem right if it only consisted of onion, tomatoes, salt and pepper. I'm sure it would have tasted fine, if a bit boring - no garlic or even fresh basil? Come on! Once the meatballs were done and out of the pan, a diced onion went in to cook just long enough to soften. We tossed in a handful of garlic cloves (5 to be exact), minced, along with Jeff's suggestion of dried oregano and a big pinch of crushed red pepper. There is a range given for the pepper as you'll want to add this to your heat tolerance - go light for a bare zing, or all out for a spicy kick.

With a couple cans of whole, peeled tomatoes going in (crush them with your hands as you add them), the sauce bubbles for a few minutes before the meatballs go back in to finish cooking through. This is where we break for a second - a portion of the meatballs and sauce are set aside, while the rest stay in the pot for dinner. Where do they going? Check back tomorrow night!

When the pasta had almost completely cooked through (drain it a minute or two before al dente), the strands were drained and tossed into the sauce pot to finish cooking through in the quick sauce, soaking up any extra juice from the tomatoes. We did give a range on the amount of pasta - we went with twelve ounces for four servings and were pretty satisfied, however, bump it up to sixteen for larger portions. Before serving, we hit the pot with chopped fresh basil and a drizzle of quality extra-virgin olive-oil (though you don't have to add the oil, we poured just a touch for good measure).

Again, the recipe didn't call for it, but our plates seemed to scream for a smattering of Parmesan, which we obliged with a few grates from a wedge we had in the refrigerator. While this definitely won't replace a traditional Spaghetti and Meatball dish with a long-simmered sauce and tender, triple-meat meatballs, take it for what it is - a simple pasta dish with spicy sausage and a snappy sauce that one can doctor to their own taste.


  1. I saw this recipe in Everyday Food and put it on my list to make. I was going to spice it up too! Looks great!

  2. Really like this recipe. Pasta usually takes me a while to make.

  3. Cooking means never having to follow a recipe exactly. I always tweak mine a bit. This looks like a good one to customize to anyone's individual tastes. If I have someone coming over that likes it hot, a bigger pinch of red peppers goes in the pot. It's fun, isn't it!

  4. Steph - Have you tried this yet?

    James - Enjoy!

    SSB - Very true!