Italian meatballs with pasta is pure comfort food. We love it. In terms of food that instantly makes you feel better when you’re under the weather, they are right up there next to chicken noodle soup and chicken laksa. Full of flavour and cooked in a rich tomato sauce, meatballs and pasta works wonders on winter sniffles or a summer cold.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not offering this up as a new remedy for the common cold, although it would be fabulous if it was. What a great way to rid yourself of the bugs and germs that can make you feel so wretched. So, not a cure, just a great way to lull yourself into feeling a little better. Almost a hug in a bowl. I’ve not always thought of meatballs in this way, but just last week when the end-of-summer colds descended upon the household, Claudia offered to make dinner. And this is what she made. The result: a satisfied tummy and an inner calmness that ibuprofen and throat lozenges couldn’t provide.
This is a recipe from Marcella Hazan’s, The Classic Italian Cookbook. I have modified it slightly, using passata instead of tinned tomatoes, and adding a little milk to the sauce, giving it an extra richness. The recipe is super easy, and is a perfect one for getting others to help in the kitchen. I personally find no pleasure in shaping meatballs, and am known for commandeering a meatball maker if one happens to be sitting at the kitchen bench or wandering past at the right time. Never ask: do you need a hand? You can guarantee the response will be: you make the meatballs and I’ll fry them!
The only tip for making these is to make sure you turn the heat off under the frying pan after you take the meatballs out and before you start making the sauce. When you add the passata to a hot pan, it tends to splatter everywhere and make a huge mess. I put all the liquids in the frying pan, stir it, add the meatballs and then turn the heat back on. Once the meatballs are gently simmering, put the pot of water on for the pasta. It takes about 15-20 minutes for the sauce to thicken and the meatballs to cook through, which is also about how long it takes to cook the pasta. If you are using pasta that takes longer to cook, turn the meatballs off because you don’t want the sauce to become too thick. Reheat them while you drain the pasta.
P.S. You don’t have to be under the weather to eat meatballs and pasta. It’s great all the time…Enjoy!
- 500 grams beef mince
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 1 slice of good quality bread, trimmed of its crusts
- salt and ground black pepper
- 400 mls tomato passata
- 200 mls water
- ⅓ cup milk
- 1+ cups dry plain breadcrumbs
- olive oil
- fettuccine or pappardelle
- extra gratings of parmesan
- Put the milk and the bread in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Mash the bread with a fork and blend it into the milk. Set aside and cool.
- In a large bowl, add the mince, egg, nutmeg, grated parmesan, the bread and milk mush, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Mix everything thoroughly with your hands.
- Gently shape the mixture into small round balls about 2.5cm (1 inch) in diameter. Roll the meatballs in the dry breadcrumbs.
- In a large frying pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the meatballs in a single layer (fry in two batches if necessary), and brown on both sides, turning them carefully so that they don't break.
- When browned remove the meatballs to a plate and set aside.
- Turn the heat off under the frying pan, then add the passata, fill the bottle with 200mls of water and swish around before adding it to the frying pan too. Add ⅓ cup of milk, and season with salt and pepper. Stir to thoroughly combine the liquids.
- Return the meatballs to the frying pan, and bring to the boil before reducing to a low heat. Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes while the pasta is cooking, stirring occasionally. If the sauce becomes too thick add a little water.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
- Divide the pasta between serving bowls, top with meatballs and grated parmesan.