These are by far the very best classic beef meatballs you will ever have...with a twist...because It's Lauren, of Course!
Spaghetti & Meatballs is one of the ultimate "oldies but goodies" in American cuisine. There is something just so familiar and comforting in the twirl of sauce-covered noodles paired with a bite of a tender and hearty meatball. I once styled a segment on television with a meatball recipe that included pignoli (pine nuts). After just one taste, I knew there was no other way I would ever make a classic beef meatball again. The pignoli can be left out and the recipe will still work, of course. You also can prepare this with a jarred sauce. But canned crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion, and olive oil are transformed into a quick and easy marinara sauce, so why not give the whole thing a try? If you have leftovers, make Baked Spaghetti for another day!
Essential equipment: cutting board; chef's knife; microplane; can opener; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; wooden spoon; large sauté pan (with high sides); large saucepan or stockpot; tongs; colander or strainer
¼ cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely minced 1, large yellow onion, finely diced 1 medium carrot, finely grated (ideally on a microplane) 2, 28 oz. cans (or 7 cups) crushed Italian tomatoes 5 sprigs of fresh thyme 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾-1 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs 2 eggs, beaten
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely minced
2/3 cups grated Parmesan or Peccorino Romano ¼ cup pignoli, toasted 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Begin by preparing the sauce. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the onion and sauté until soft but not taking on any color, for about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and grated carrot and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir well to combine. Stir in the thyme sprigs, salt, and pepper. Lower the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently.
ILOC tip: there is no need to peel the carrot, so long as it is clean, since it is being grated and will lose itself in the sauce.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, stir together all of the meatball ingredients until well combined. Form meatballs using a ¼-cup measure and lightly oiled hands (14-18 meatballs). Place the meatballs evenly spaced apart on a sheet pan lightly greased with olive oil or lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes.
ILOC tip: fresh breadcrumbs - made from anything from soft, white sandwich bread to crusty sourdough - are far superior to the dried, seasoned variety you buy in a cardboard canister. Fresh breadcrumbs are like sponges, absorbing and dispersing moisture. They make the most tender and moist meatballs, and the most tender and crispy coatings. Just toss bread in the food processor and blend!
4. While the meatballs bake, boil 1 pound of spaghetti until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
5. Remove 2 cups of sauce from the pan and reserve. Place the cooked spaghetti in the remaining sauce in the pan and swirl to coat. If the sauce has been resting off the heat, turn the heat to low to warm thoroughly.
6. Remove the meatballs from the oven and toss in the reserved two cups of sauce. Divide the pasta evenly among shallow bowls, and top each serving with three sauced meatballs. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve immediately.
Makes 4-5 servings.