Yesterday I spent some time in the kitchen preparing a spaghetti and meatball dinner for friends. Over the weekend, I was given my grandmother’s recipe for her “famous” meatballs and spaghetti sauce so I put them to the test. On last night’s menu:

  • Spaghetti
  • Sauce
  • Meatballs
  • Garlic bread

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It goes without saying that this was a traditional Italian meal (aka delicious but heavier than my normal weeknight dinners). There are plenty of ways to lighten up this meal but I chose to cook it the REAL way. I’ve got to say, it tasted pretty darn good! 😉

Here is the breakdown:

Spaghetti

I’ve only made my own pasta once, which was in a class at the Cambridge Culinary Institute. During the class, I kneaded the pasta by hand then fed it through an attachment on a Kitchen Aid mixer. It was pretty easy and fun and tasted great!

That said, I chose to buy fresh pasta yesterday. In Somerville, MA, there are several places that sell homemade, fresh pasta. One of those places is Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Davis Square. It’s a specialty shop focused on fresh pasta, wine, cheese and gourmet foods. They also make unique sandwiches and salads so it was busy when I visited at lunchtime.

This was my first experience buying fresh pasta (and by fresh, I mean they cut it while you wait). Of the many flavors, I ordered a pound of whole wheat and a pound of sweet red pepper (which was the special yesterday). Once I ordered, the woman behind the counter then asked, “How do you want that cut?” I must have looked confused as she then pointed up and hanging above the counter were a variety of sample pasta shapes including angel hair, spaghetti, and linguini. How cool! On a whim, I chose the spaghetti for both flavors.

Sauce

As I mentioned before, my grandmother (my Dad’s mother) made excellent spaghetti sauce (and meatballs) for many years. She was Irish but when she married my grandfather (who was Italian) she quickly learned to cook Italian dishes for the family. While I’m not going to post the family recipe, I’ll give you an idea of what her sauce is all about. It starts with onions sautéed in olive oil and, as you can imagine, the sauce includes a lot of tomatoes, tomato paste and seasoning. However, the trick is to include several types of meat for flavor as well as allowing the sauce to simmer for hours. Here are a few photos of the process. (You can email me if you have specific questions.)

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Meatballs

Again, this is my grandmother’s recipe. While I’ve made meatballs before, I never made my grandmother’s meatballs and I was nervous they wouldn’t turn out as moist as hers always were. The process is pretty simple and the ingredients include ground meat (beef or a variety of beef, pork and veal), Italian bread, grated cheese, egg, and spices. Again, I don’t want to give away our family recipe but if you have questions, email me!

Once I blended the mixture, I rolled it into balls and placed them on an oiled baking pan. I baked the meatballs for 10-15 minutes then added them to the sauce to simmer for several hours. Photos…

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Garlic Bread

I didn’t have a specific recipe for garlic bread but I found a fairly simple recipe on allrecipes.com for Roasted Garlic Bread. This was my first time roasting garlic. Have you ever done it before? It’s so easy! I cut the tops off of three garlic bulbs, placed them on a baking sheet and drizzled them with olive oil. I baked the garlic bulbs for 30 minutes then let them cool a bit. Once the garlic is cooked, each clove pops right out of the bulb with a little squeeze.

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From there I mashed the garlic cloves and added the other ingredients (including butter, parmesan cheese and parsley). I broiled the plain pieces of fresh Italian bread for 3-5 minutes then turned them over, spread the garlic mixture on each piece and broiled them for another 3-5 minutes. I may smell like garlic for days but it’s worth it!

Results

I think the meal turned out really well, especially for my first attempt at my grandmother’s meatballs and sauce. The fresh pasta was stickier than I would have liked so I kept adding olive oil to it. It was tasty but just a little sticky once cooked. My friends really liked the meatballs and actually mentioned how moist they were. Woohoo! I thought the sauce also turned out well. My friends noticed the sauce was a bit sweet, exactly how I remember it. It was full of flavor, due to the long cooking time (I’m guessing). The garlic bread turned out well except I noticed the center of the bread was a little mushy while the edges were crispy. It could have been my crazy super oven but next time I would try to get the centers a bit crispier. My friends said they didn’t mind the centers being too soft as it was covered in butter/garlic. It was definitely flavorful.

All in all, this was a filling and delicious meal. Phew! It’s been raining in Boston for (what feels like) three years now, so a nice dinner of comfort food was well received.

Now it’s time for leftovers. Meatball subs, anyone?

Time for a question…What is your favorite family recipe?

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