Sunday, November 8, 2009

finally - spaghetti and turkey meatballs

spaghetti and turkey meatballs
when i say to you
that i have been trying to
write this post for over two weeks,
i mean it. i've started it.
several times. only to be
cut off by small things - like
having to go to work,
go to bed, actually make dinner
for the night ahead, deal with
unexpected work crises and um,
one day, somehow cutting
off our internet connection.
so, i know it's been a while.
so long that i almost scrapped
the whole post
in a sign of moving on,
but, i couldn't do it.
we liked the meatballs too much.


usually when larry
goes away for work,
i try to get my act together
in time for his homecoming.
not this time.
he had been away for a
week and he was actually
coming home late on
a thursday evening - not
the middle of the night like
usual. i wanted to top

instead, i found out that he
was coming home earlier
than expected, i had a very, very
long and busy day at work that ended with
10 children, pizza dough, flour, sauce
and eventually, baked pizzas for them
to eat. and, i lost my cell phone.
my only phone - especially if larry
and his cell are not in the house.

i got home from work just after
his plane landed, figured out how
to text him through gchat and
ran out to order and wait for
dinner. life without a phone
is tough. i was back home fast -
but he was already there.
and so, he welcomed me and
a bag of (good, but not homemade)
mexican food at the door.
not exactly the way i pictured it.

the next night,
i wanted to make it up to larry
(although, honestly, i think
his spicy pork tacos were fine
with him. i was the one
with the problem). i gave him
a few choices - he chose
spaghetti and turkey meatballs.
on the way to the store
i asked him to cook with me.
he agreed. he also tried to sneak
ground pork into the basket.
he did not succeed.

that night,
while i set to work
chopping and sauteing
onions and garlic,
larry squished peeled
san marzano tomatoes
from the biggest can
i had ever bought.
biggest can of tomatoes ever
we added the tomatoes
to the aromatics, dropping in
a few bay leaves and while
i spent time regretting that
i didn't add wine to the pot,
the whole thing started

i had made this recipe
once before, a few years back.
my memories of the experience
consisted of these four things:
i made them for larry after a very
long spell of all things vegetarian,
i was very hot in the kitchen that day,
it took a very long time
and the end result was worth it.
that's why i had asked for
larry's help.
turkey meatballs
this time around,
even though the company
was nice - very nice - the whole
process was much smoother and
i probably could have handled it
by myself. larry cracked eggs
into a bowl while i mixed together
milk and breadcrumbs. i incorporated them
all together with some grated romano cheese
while he stirred the sauce.
once the ground turkey was added
and the whole thing was rolled
into balls, i looked around the kitchen
and realized that everything was very calm.
plate of turkey meatballs
i brought a pot of water to a boil
and pulled out my best kitchen friend,
the immersion blender. i've never really
smoothed out a sauce like this before -
i usually like them chunky and full,
but it was an experiment. i hadn't
followed the sauce recipe that accompanied
the meatballs, but it did call for pureeing
and i thought, maybe that's one step
i should follow. i blended everything
for a minute. just long enough to
make the mixture thick and cohesive,
but still maintain pieces of tomatoes and onions.
it was a lovely success - something i'm sure
every italian grandmother and grandchild
could have told me years ago.

when it was time to put it all together,
i was glad to have larry there to monitor
the pasta, so that i could tend to the
meatballs, which of course, by the time
i was done with them, looked nothing
like balls, more like unruly pentagons.
turkey meatballs browning
no matter. once they're sauced,
no one cares. or at least, no one
in this house cares.

it was a meal not so shocking,
nothing so groundbreaking
in turkey meatballs and sauce,
but for me,
topped with freshly grated cheese
and big glasses of red wine,
it was the welcome back meal
i was hoping for.
just a day late.
turkey meatballs in sauce
spaghetti and turkey meatballs
adapted from giada de laurentiis
the original recipe calls for dark ground turkey, but i used 93% lean, and was very happy with the results. we also had 1/4 pound more turkey, so i upped everything else, in addition to adding chopped garlic and oregano. these turkey meatballs are a great basic recipe - good to store somewhere in your head and adapt as inspiration strikes. i really wantd to bake them, but this meal was larry's and he offered up objections. next time, i'm trying them in the oven. oh, and if you're making your own sauce (so worth it), start the sauce and while it's cooking, make the meatballs. or, if you're really on top of things, make the sauce the day before.

5 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
2 1/2 tablespoons whole milk (we used 1% - it was fine)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons grated romano cheese
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 1/4 pound ground turkey
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
5-7 cups marinara sauce
1 pound spaghetti

in bowl, stir together bread crumbs and whole milk. stir in eggs, cheese, garlic and oregano. season mixture with salt and pepper. using your hands, gently mix in turkey, just until combined, being sure not to overmix. shape mixture into golf size balls.

bring large saucepot water to a boil; cook and drain spaghetti according to package directions. (ideally, the pasta will be ready just around when the sauced meatballs are done.)

meanwhile, in large skillet over medium high heat, add oil until shimmering, but not smoking. add meatballs. cook 2 minutes, or until golden brown and easy to lift from the skillet. turn meatballs and cook 2 minutes more. continue turning and browning until meatballs are browned on all sides.

add 5 cups sauce to meatballs; bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. using a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to a bowl; tent to keep warm. over low heat, add cooked spaghetti to skillet and mix with sauce, adding extra sauce if desired. transfer spaghetti to a large serving bowl or individual bowls; top with meatballs and additional sauce, if desired. serve with grated romano cheese.

the marinara sauce
this sauce made a lot - more than needed for the meatballs. i emptied the leftovers into a resealable bag, flattened it out and froze the bag for a future dinner. if the past few weeks are any indication of the weeks ahead, i'm sure i'll be glad to have it stashed. there was not a ton of measuring involved with this, so here's a close approximation of how the sauce came to be:

olive oil
dried oregano
red pepper flakes
2 large white onions, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 can (106 ounces) whole peeled san marzano tomatoes
2 bay leaves
granulated sugar
grated romano cheese

in large saucepot over high heat, heat a small splash of olive oil 30 seconds, or until hot and shimmering. add oregano and dried pepper flakes and stir 30 seconds. add chopped onions and cook 10-15 minutes, or until tender. add garlic. saute 1 minute more, or until tender.

meanwhile, remove tomatoes from can into large mixing bowl, squishing and breaking down as you go. when onions and garlic are ready, add everything from the bowl, plus a decent pour of the tomato puree that the tomatoes came in, to the saucepot. add bay leaves.

bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes, or until slightly thickened. remove and discard bay leaves. using immersion blender (or a regular blender in careful batches), puree sauce just until combined, but chunks still remain.

simmer 15 to 20 minutes more. if too acidic, sprinkle in a couple pinches of sugar. add a small palmful of grated parm; stir to combine.


P Cass said...

This sound great...I can't wait to make it!

Larry said...

it certainly was

doughgirl said...

Ah, the trusty immersion blender!

Tell me, how much sauce did that can yield? Did you freeze?


doughgirl said...

Sorry, I just saw your note about throwing the rest in the freezer, duh. In any case, I'm sure it made a lot!


brooke said...

you know, i should have measured, but i didn't. i would guess about 10 cups - i used 6 to 7 in the recipe and i think it's fair to say i had 3 to 4 cups leftover.