Every year during the weekend following Thanksgiving, my family battles over what we’ll have for Christmas Eve Dinner. Yes, it’s March, and I’m discussing Christmas and Thanksgiving. Christmas Eve dinner is major in our home, more so than Christmas Day. We’ve had the same family friends to celebrate over dinner for years now, and we always have an epic meal with tons of wine and a gluttonous dessert. By the end of the night I’ve usually laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.
My brother and I always battle over the meal selection, so when placing my vote this year, I totally expected to be ridiculed and contested. But oddly enough, everyone was in complete agreement. We all wanted spaghetti and meatballs.
The Contessa is all about taking simple comfort foods and making them “extraordinary”. Spaghetti and meatballs is one of those quintessential comfort meals that when made with the best of ingredients, is that much more special. So that’s what we did at Christmas, and that’s what I did last night. I had such a hankering for a hearty Italian meal, and with spring somewhat on the horizon, I wanted to whip this one up sooner rather than later. I highly recommend my recipe, but whichever one you choose, do note that the sauce and meatballs are even better the next day, so this is a great make ahead meal.
Spaghetti and Meatballs adapted from The Pioneer Woman
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup torn bread (no crusts) soaked in milked and squeezed out
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cups Olive Oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 1/2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can pureed tomatoes
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 T salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, minced
- 2 pounds spaghetti
Begin the meatballs by sauteing the onions with a little olive oil over medium low heat in a small sauce pan. Cook for roughly 5 minutes, until soft. Add in garlic and stir to combine, cooking for just 1-2 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile soak 1/4 of a baguette or 2-3 slices of day old italian bread in milk for 5 minutes (bread should be covered). While soaking, place the ground meat, eggs, parm, parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour in cooked onion mixture. After bread has soaked, ring it out with your hands, soaking enough bread so that the “wrung out” bread equals one cup. Add to meatball mixture. Toss all ingredients well with hands. Form into 18-20 meatballs, line on a tray, and let rest in the fridge for 10 minutes before cooking.
Set a heavy bottomed large pot to medium heat and coat pan with 1/2 olive oil. Heat for five minutes until pan is nice and hot. Cook the meatballs in batches (6-7 at a time, depending on the size of your pot). You want to brown them on each side, but not cook them completely. They will finish cooking in the tomato sauce. To do this allow the meatballs to cook for roughly 4 minutes one side (until nicely browned), then turn and cook for the same time on the remaining side. Turn them gently, gingerly nudging them with tongs if they tend to stick to the pan. Set aside on a plate lined with paper towels.
Once all the meatballs are cooked, in the same pot, cook the onions and garlic for the sauce. Set to medium heat cooking for roughly 5 minutes. Once cooked add in remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Let simmer over medium low heat for 15 minutes.
After the sauce has thickened, gently add the meatballs back in and cook for 25 minutes. Set your pasta water to boil. Once boiling drop in your spaghetti and cook for roughly 8 minutes, just til al dente.
Once pasta is cooked, drain and divide among bowls. Pour sauce and meatballs over the pasta, topping with more parm and a sprinkling of parsley. Serve immediately with a full bodied red wine and a light salad.