Forecast for the weekend – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Although spaghetti and meatballs is not strictly an Italian idea, but rather the invention of early 20th- Century Italian immigrants in New York, it has earned iconic status and remains ever popular. Every Italian Nonna has a secret family recipe that’s heavily guarded, but this is my version, with a twist. I’ve mixed finely chopped prosciutto into the meat. It adds a wonderful salty depth that makes these meatballs rather special.
There are a couple of rules to cooking pasta. Here are several that I follow. Cook the pasta in plenty of well salted, boiling water. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and stir to keep the strands from sticking together. Oil should never be added to the water. Also, don’t rinse the pasta afterwards. It needs that starchy coating to get the sauce to cling. Always reserve a little of the cooking water to loosen the sauce up.
Lastly, toss the pasta and sauce together. This simple step ensures that the first bite is as good as the last. When mixed together.
Prosciutto Meatballs and spaghetti
- 500g lean beef mince
- 40g prosciutto, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup white breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- a handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
- zest of half a lemon
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 small shallots or 1 medium brown onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- a splash of balsamic vinegar (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- 3 sun-dried tomatoes, mulched into a paste
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- a dash of chilli flakes
- 60ml water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 300g spaghetti or linguine pasta
- freshly grated parmesan, to serve
- To make the meatballs, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together, preferably by hand, but a fork will also do. If you over mix the mince using a spoon, the texture of the meatball becomes dense and compact. Roll into golf ball sized rounds or slightly smaller. Try to keep them the same size so that the meat cooks through evenly.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. Add the meatballs and cook until browned on both sides. Remove the meatballs from the pan, cover and set aside.
- In the same pan, add a little more olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes until softened. Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar. Add the chopped tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, paste, sugar, chilli and water. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Place the meatballs back into the sauce. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes on a medium heat. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- In the meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta and tip into the sauce. Turn the pasta gently through the sauce to coat evenly. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if you think the sauce needs it. Serve with fresh basil and grated parmesan.