Vampire proof spaghetti
August 27, 2015
I am happy to report that no vampires have been noted in attendance in the environs of Chez Brockwell since the making of the tomato garlic sauce last week.
I am also happy to report that the sauce, while definitely garlicky enough to repel the toothy creatures, is not garlicky enough to keep it from being quite excellent with some meatballs and pasta.
I decided on spaghetti and meatballs t’other night when an evening meeting fell through. I quickly thawed out some ground beef in some hot water in the sink, grabbed a pint of sauce off the shelf in the pantry, and set to work.
There are meatballs, and there are meatballs. I would LOVE to be able to duplicate the flavor and texture of the meatballs I’ve had at Villa di Roma in the Italian Market district of Philadelphia; alas, I’ve never been able to do so. But these ain’t half bad.
I first crushed about a half-cup of cracker crumbs, and poured about a quarter cup of whipping cream over them and allowed that to sit and soak up for a bit. I added the ground beef into the bowl, along with some seasoned salt, some pepper, some red pepper, and an egg. Normally, I’d add onion powder and garlic powder to the mix, but I figured I had plenty of those flavors in the sauce. As a finishing touch, I grated in about a half-cup of parmigiano.
Squished all that up together with my hands, formed seven meatballs about the size of a tennis ball, maybe a tad smaller, and set them to take in a 350-degree oven.
Now, there is a difference in schools of thought among experts in Italian cookery, of which I am most assuredly not one, as to whether meatballs should be (a) baked; (b) fried; or (c) just poached in the sauce. I can rule out fried right away. I don’t fry much of anything I can cook any other way. It’s messy, and the things have a tendancy to fall apart on me. But I want a little bit of texture in the crust, even after they’ve simmered in sauce; so I opt with baking them until they’re good and brown….about 30-40 minutes at 350.
I turned to the sauce. Emptied my pint jar into a saucepan, and took my immersion blender to it to puree it. Then I added a small can of tomato sauce I happened to have in the pantry, because I figured that might tone down the garlic a bit; some dried oregano; and about a half-cup of red wine.Brought that to a boil, let it simmer a bit, and gently sunk the meatballs into it; covered it and ignored it for 45 minutes.
That was, seriously, all there was to it. And you know what? It was pretty freakin’ good. The meatballs were approaching that wonderful velvety texture of the ones at Villa di Roma; the replacement of some of the beef with veal would probably have done the trick there. Cracker crumbs should have been crushed just a bit finer. But the soaking the cracker crumbs in cream first? That’s the ticket. The sauce flavors leached into the meatballs, and the meatball juices leached out into the sauce, and it all coated the pasta just beautifully. A good sprinkle of grated parm on top made it pretty much perfect.
I had a piece of a loaf of brioche I’d made earlier in the week, so I sliced off some and brushed it with olive oil in which I had poached garlic confit, then sprinkled grated parm on it. That’s not a treatment to which brioche lends itself. Some French bread or ciabatta would have been MUCH better.
Nevertheless, there was definitely nothing wrong with dinner.
So when you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em get in the mood for p’sketti ‘n meatballs, and need to repel the vampires, you let me know and we’ll open a jar of this stuff.