Spaghetti & Meatballs Dinner Challenge: Last night I cooked up 2 different Spaghetti & Meatballs recipes and with the help of my good friend Amy and her family, had a taste test to see which one was preferred. It was a fun thing to do on a Saturday night, and Spaghetti & Meatballs is one of my favorite comfort foods when it is cold and snowy out. One of the recipes was my recipe that I've made for as long as I can remember. The other was a recipe by Emeril Lagasse (courtesy of the Food Network website).
Now, up until today, I didn't have a written recipe for my meatballs or sauce, so when I've given this recipe to people, it usually consists of measurements like "handfuls" or "until it looks like enough" (this drives my sister crazy, not that that is my intention), so I tried to keep track of the amounts of ingredients I used for this challenge, but they are approximate. I followed Emeril's recipe as written, with the exception of the Essence Seasoning -- I swear I bought it when I was at the store, but it wasn't in the bags when I got home. So, I left that out. Other than than, I followed his recipe as presented (oh yeah, I also added a spalsh of wine to his sauce -- you can't make sauce without wine, it just isn't done). In the picture below, my recipe is on the left, and Emeril's is on the right. They look very similar in the picture, but my sauce is smoother and darker in color, and Emeril's is chunkier. The final verdict was a draw -- Amy and her youngest son liked my spicy, beefy meatballs better, and her husband and oldest son liked Emeril's recipe better. Actually, her husband liked Emeril's meatballs, but my sauce better. I didn't vote, since I am partial to my recipe. So, I am posting both recipes (2 different posts). You can decide which is your favorite. :-)
Adrienne's Spicy, Beefy Spaghetti & Meatballs
2 pounds lean ground beef (I usually use 93/7 or 95/5 beef)
2 large shallots, minced
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, grated (depends on how big your garlic cloves are)
2 - 3 Tablespoons chopped, fresh flat leaf parsley (I just tear off a handful and chop it up)
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (a couple of generous handfuls is fine)
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine
kosher salt (to taste -- probably about a teaspoon)
freshly ground black pepper (to taste -- about 15 grinds on the pepper mill)
garlic salt (a couple shakes)
onion powder (a shake or two)
To make the meatballs:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit and line a baking sheet with foil (makes clean up so much easier) and place a baking rack on the foil-lined baking sheet (allows the grease to drip down as they cook and the meatballs will not be sitting in the grease).
Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until all ingredients are well combined. I wear gloves when I do this for 2 reasons -- 1. it's more sanitary (who wants raw beef under their fingernails -- eww!) and 2. it is easier to roll the meatballs -- the meat doesn't stick to the gloves like it sticks to your hands.
Roll into meatballs (I make pretty big meat balls -- they are larger than golf balls and end up being about 2 inches in diameter) and place on the baking rack. It is important to make sure all your meatballs are the same size so they cook evenly. If you make your meatballs as big as mine, you'll get about 16 meatballs out of this recipe.
Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 30 minutes. They won't be completely cooked through at this point, but that's okay because you're going to add them to the sauce to finish cooking.
While the meatballs are cooking, start the sauce. You can start the sauce first - this gives it more time to simmer and and thicken up, plus gives it a richer flavor, so that is usually what I do.
Ingredients for Marinara Sauce:
1 large onion, chopped (I like to use sweet onions, but whatever you prefer)
4 - 6 cloves of garlic, grated (depends on the size of your garlic cloves)
2 - 3 Tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
2 28-ounce cans of tomato sauce
1 14-ounce can of beef broth (I use reduced sodium beef broth)
1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
a generous splash of red wine (I use a slow 3-count pour)
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons of Dell'Alpe Italian Seasoning for Pizza (or your favorite blend of Italian seasoning)
1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil at medium-high heat and saute the onions until translucent, about 5 - 6 minutes. Add salt and pepper to the onions as they saute (to taste).
2. Add garlic to onions and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir constantly so the garlic doesn't burn -- you don't want to brown it.
3. Add the tomato sauce, beef broth, tomato paste, red wine, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning to the pot and stir until combined. Let come to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer. Stir occassionaly to make sure the sauce doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
4. Once the meatballs have finished baking, remove from the oven and immediately add to the simmering sauce. Continue simmering for at least an additional 30 - 40 minutes so that the meatballs cook through. If you like a thicker sauce, you can extend the cooking time and simmer the sauce uncovered (but it will make a mess of your stove).
5. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce as needed and serve over your favorite cooked pasta.
This recipe makes 4 - 6 servings.