serves: 6 servings
I like a mixture of beef and pork for meatballs, but you can use all of one or another if you prefer. If you do use all beef, try this: Moisten the breadcrumbs in milk for a minute or two before adding them to the meatball mixture. It's not traditional, but it will help with the somewhat dryer texture of beef. You can use a spoon or spatula to mix the meatballs, but I like to use my hands. I think it's the most efficient way and I can feel the texture of what I'm mixing.
The mix of vegetable and olive oils gives you a higher smoking point for the oil with the benefit of the flavor of olive oil. The reason for flouring and browning the meatballs is to add flavor and to seal them so they hold together in the sauce, not to cook them all the way through-they will finish cooking in the sauce.
For the Sauce
2 35-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves
freshly ground pepper
For the Meatballs
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
⅓ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 pound spaghetti
Pass the tomatoes and their liquid through a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 4 to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, add the crushed red pepper, bay leaves and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, crumble the beef and pork into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup grated cheese, parsley and garlic over the meat. Beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl until blended. Pour over the meat mixture. Mix the ingredients with clean hands just until evenly blended. Don't over mix. Shape the meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls.
Dredge the meatballs in the flour until lightly but evenly coated. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and the vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Slip as many meatballs into the skillet as will fit without crowding. Fry, turning as necessary, until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Adjust the heat as the meatballs cook to prevent them from overbrowning. Remove the meatballs and repeat if necessary with the remaining meatballs.
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.
Add the browned meatballs to the tomato sauce and cook, stirring gently with a wooden spoon, until no trace of pink remains at the center of the meatballs, about 30 minutes.
Stir the spaghetti into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, about 8 minutes.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Spoon in about 2 cups of the tomato sauce, tossing well until the pasta is coated with sauce. Remove from the heat and toss in 2/3 cup grated cheese. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve the pasta in warm bowls or piled high on a large warm platter. Spoon a little more of the sauce over the pasta and pass the remaining sauce separately. Pass the meatballs, family style in a bowl, or top the bowls or platter of spaghetti with them.