Friday, April 15, 2011

Baking takes fuss out of meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs are a perennial family favourite. Baking meatballs instead of browning them in a pan streamlines the process, saving time and effort as you can cook the pasta and make the sauce while the meatballs are in the oven. 
Spaghetti And Meatballs
Serves 4
2-3 thick slices or end crusts of bread
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled
500g lean minced beef
1 egg
1/2 tsp each dried basil, oregano, thyme and chilli powder
1 tsp salt
400g fresh or dried spaghetti
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 x 400g cans whole tomatoes in juice
1/2 tsp each dried basil and oregano
1/2 cup red or white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Break the bread into smaller pieces then crumb it in a food processor. Add the roughly chopped onion and garlic, and chop finely.
Add the next seven ingredients and mix in bursts, just until everything is combined. (Over-mixing toughens the meatballs.) Divide mixture in quarters, then eighths, then sixteenths, and then into 32 meatballs, rolling them with wet hands.
Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in an uncovered baking pan lined with Teflon or baking paper and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a halved meatball is no longer pink in the middle.
While meatballs bake, cook the spaghetti in plenty of lightly salted boiling water, and prepare the sauce.
Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the garlic for about one minute.
Add tomatoes (with the juice) to the pan, forcing the solids through a large sieve with the back of a spoon (discard the seeds and any tough bits that remain). Add the wine and herbs, and allow the sauce to simmer and reduce down for about five minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drain the cooked pasta, return it to the cooking pot, and toss it with 1-2 Tbsp butter, then divide between plates.
Either add the meatballs to the pan with the sauce, toss to coat and spoon over the pasta, or spoon the sauce over the pasta, then top with the meatballs.
A sprinkling of grated parmesan and/or some chopped parsley or basil makes a nice finishing touch.