When we got our first freezer my Mum began buying immense amounts of minced beef and frozen fish. It was the 80’s so who can blame her. I fondly remember her Knorr Bolognese with Spaghetti – the distinct and salty taste of powdered stock with blasphemous amounts of meat. My brother and I are big guys, good bones, and I insist her “Bollo” must have had at least something to do with it. I miss you Mum.
Everything starts with a good base. I always invest in a selection of good quality vine tomatoes and cover them in plenty of sea salt, pepper and sugar – the latter being very important to balance the acidity. I shake in a generous amount of olive oil, throw in some garlic – no need to peel or chop – and roast until slightly burned. The char and vines add a good dimension of flavor that you don’t get from canned ingredients.
Once roasted I remove most of the vines, add quite a few cans of quality chopped tomatoes for volume, a bunch of basil, half a bottle of Chianti and blend into a smooth sauce. I do this right in the pot with a hand blender for simplicities sake and this way any leftover bits of vine or garlic are blitzed into welcome extinction.
The sauce improves the more you reduce it, so simmering for a couple of hours minimum is a good ballpark figure and gives you time to create the meatballs.
Of course there are many ways to make a meatball but over the years I concluded that a 50% pork and 50% beef combo is probably unbeatable. Additional ingredients are a small amount of quality bread crumbs, some finely chopped rosemary, salt, pepper, a hint of five spice and two Clarence Court egg yolks. I then thoroughly knead into a dough like chunk and put the result in the fridge for a while to harden.
Before getting to the browning stage you have to decide how big your meatballs are meant to be. Going by my personal preference I like them to be rather big, which is slightly smaller than the size of my palm. What’s the point otherwise.
Separate into small batches and throw into a hot pan to fry until brown and a good amount of maillard reaction has taken place. It is critical to do this or else you will just boil the meat and lose a huge part of the potential flavor.
My favorite bit is sinking the browned meatballs into the sauce, one by one. At first it will feel like there isn’t enough space, but over a couple of minutes everything will sink to the bottom of the vessel, making space for another layer on top. You end up with the most beautiful and wholesome pot of simmering food.
Cook for about 30-45 minutes at medium temperature, basically long enough for the meat to be well done and the sauce and balls to have infused each other.
With everything ready the other half of that Chianti comes in very handy. I always serve with al dente Spaghetti and use a generous amount of grated 24 month aged Parmesan to top it all off.
Look at this beauty. Perfection. Spaghetti with home made Meatballs – done!