Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs Done Not My Way

For the first time EVER, I tried a sauce recipe that wasn't my own.

It's not like I was born knowing how to make sauce, well...I kinda was. My mom isn't Italian, she's Canadian (we'll save that for another blog post), but she married into a pretty hard-core Italian family. This meant that she had to master a sauce. From what I understand, my dad taught her his sauce, and she made adjustments over the years perfecting it in her own way. In Italian families like mine, your sauce is very important. You eat it at least once a week, so it better be pretty damn good.

Okay, now back to me - my mom didn't really teach me how to make my sauce, but I watched her do it almost every week when I was growing up, so when I moved out on my own, I just figured it out. Of course, I've made my adjustments too. None of our sauces are exactly alike, but I'm going to go ahead and say that they are all excellent.

My sauce is very near and dear to me. I did describe how I make it in a previous blog post, but that was actually the first time I've ever written it down. Sometimes it comes out a little different depending on what I consider "a dash" or "some" to be on that particular day, but it's always good. Now this brings me to trying a sauce that's not mine...

It's one thing when someone goes, "Have you ever put ______ in your sauce? It's really good," compared to, "Try this sauce recipe." It's a big commitment to try a new sauce. What if it sucks? What if it doesn't cling right to the pasta? OH GAWD, what if it's BETTER than mine? These are all things that went through my head when my husband mentioned his interest in trying the "Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs*" recipe from Cooks Illustrated.

I probably would have just pooh-poohed the idea, if not for my husband's crazed love for meatballs. I know I'm not the Meatball Queen that my grandmother was, so I thought, "What the hell, he's a pretty good husband, I'll give it a try."

There were some strange differences in this recipe compared to the techniques my family uses:
  • Use of tomato juice instead of puree
  • Adding buttermilk to the breadcrumbs
  • Including diced prosciutto to the meat mixture
  • White wine instead of red wine
 The tomato juice thing really through me off, but it made the sauce thinner, so when I simmered the meatballs in it, it naturally thickened up - not a bad idea. The buttermilk in the breadcrumbs things was super weird, but it worked - those were some rich and moist balls. Adding prosciutto to anything is a great idea, so of course it worked out. Finally, the white wine thing - not sure if I noticed the difference there.

Overall, I have to say that the sauce wasn't my favorite, but it was very good. If I did it again I would also do the meatballs exactly the same with the exception of adding the extra salt as the meatballs and sauce get pretty salty from the prosciutto and cheese. I would also only do the process of keeping a thinner sauce while seasoning it my own way. I'm glad I tried this, it's a sure-way to get some great pasta on the table. Give it a whirl, you won't be disappointed.
*The sauce serves like 12 people, so I cut it by 2/3 and it fed my husband and I with enough for a big dinner, two lunches, and a tad more for snacking. The meatballs make AMAZING meatball sandwiches - I love meals that have leftovers!


  1. Thems were some awesome balls!

  2. Going to try the meatball recipe...sounds interesting. I'll test it on your Dad!!

  3. Hey mom - don't forget to only do 1/3 of that recipe! Otherwise you guys will have Spaghetti and Meatballs for a month! Well, that might not be a bad thing...

  4. yea - Stephen's family had spaghetti once a week while he was growing up...
    I need to master a sauce - and can it. The Pettinatos have a special family recipe with pork ribs...but i'm not crazy about it - they are. uh-oh - aren't I a Pettinato now? oops!

    I'm much more of a spaghetti and meatballs person. What does my Italian husband think of his Scots-Irish wife's spaghetti? I've only made it about 3 times since we've been married - so that's like once a year??? The sauce takes sooo long to cook down to the right consistency. And I won't use store bought - at least I've got that right.

  5. Oh and I've used breadcrumbs and I think eggs in my meatballs - it's like you're making meatloaf. or 'moatleaf' as I called it when I was But I don't think I've used buttermilk before..
    And I just don't think I can bring myself to use white instead of red when the color doesn't affect it.

    I have to say that the recipe sounds a bit funky to me...but I'm glad you had fun experimenting!! Do you have anything that you think you'll keep from this recipe to alter your own recipe?

    I'd love to be the "Meatball Queen" lol

  6. @Lily It's a totally funky recipe, but it was a good experiment. I think I'd definitely do the meatballs that way forever...well, until I find a better way.

    As far as the sauce, the only things I'd probably keep from the recipe is using tomato juice to keep a thinner sauce (only for meatballs or braising other meat) as well as grating the onions. That was kind of a cool method as to not end up with onion chunks.

    If you don't have online access to Cook's Illustrated, I can email you the full recipe. It's worth a try!


    Meatball Queen in Training