Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 27: Big Beef Balls with Bucatini

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
1 small to medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
6 garlic cloves, 3 cloves minced, 3 cloves chopped
1 egg
1/2 to 2/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus some to pass at the table
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
   Coarse salt
   Coarse black pepper
1 pound bucatini
1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
12 cremini mushroom caps, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup beef stock or broth
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a large pot of water to a boil.

Heat a deep skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions in 1 tablespoon of the EVOO for 5 minutes. Remove the onions and set them aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the meat with half the onions, the minced garlic, the egg, bread crumbs, cheese, allspice, capers, sage, a handful of the chopped parsley, salt, pepper, and a healthy drizzle of EVOO.

Score the meat into 4 sections and make 3 very large balls from each section. Arrange the 12 balls on a nonstick cookie sheet and roast for 15 minutes until firm but not hard.

Salt the boiling water and drop the bucatini into it. Cook until al dente. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta and meatballs are cooking, heat another tablespoon of EVOO in the skillet in which the onions were cooked. Add the pancetta and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then add the remaining garlic and the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.

Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add the remaining onions back and deglaze the pan with the red wine, cook for 1 minute, add the beef stock, and whisk up any brown bits. Stir in the tomatoes and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining parsley. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Toss the pasta with half the sauce.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and add to the remaining sauce, turning to coat.

Serve 3 meatballs per person alongside the pasta. Spoon any remaining sauce over the pasta. Pass extra cheese at the table. Serve with a green salad.


This is a better version of spaghetti and meatballs; better than the master recipe, Veal Polpette. It is very similar to a traditional version. I used perciatelli because I couldn't find any bucatini. It is still hollow spaghetti. I liked it a lot. The meatballs were pretty good. They fell apart easily, but that's probably my fault. I ran out of eggs, so I used some mayonnaise instead (I thought, "mayonnaise has eggs in it, that should work." So that's probably why they didn't stick together like they should have. Anyway. I changed the garlic from being 2 cloves minced and 4 chopped to 3 minced and 3 chopped. I don't really know the difference, but I think mincing is finer than chopping. I'm pretty sure you were supposed to put the minced garlic in the meatballs.

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