While I love making homemade pasta, sometimes quick and easy is the way to go for a meal during the week. But that doesn’t have to mean the meal can’t be rock-star awesome. With some quality ingredients and a bit of a plan, you can totally rock out a mid-week pasta feast!
So the keys for us are good pasta (see our post on Famiglia Martelli pasta), a good sauce and some tasty meat. We’ve become fans of San Marzano tomatoes (the real ones from Italy – you can find them on Amazon or at a local foodie store) as the base for a quick sauce. We also love homemade meatballs, and we discovered they freeze really well uncooked, so you can have them at the ready any night. So below is our go-to approach to simple yet awesome spaghetti and meatballs for a Wednesday.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 C milk
- 1/2 C fresh grated (fine) parmesan
- 1/2 C chopped fresh parsley
- 3/4 C breadcrumbs
- 1 t salt
- 1 t pepper
- 1 t crushed red pepper
In a large bowl, crumble and loosely mix the ground meat. Add in the parmesan, parsley, breadcrumbs and spices. Mix loosely with your hands. In another bowl, whisk up the egg and then add in the milk – pour into the meat mixture and blend together (but don’t over mix).
Get out a baking sheet and spray with Pam. Using both hands, form the meatballs, pressing together, but not too tightly or loosely – you’ll soon get the feel of it. We make ours just a hair bigger than a golf ball. Place them on the tray – this recipe will get you about 20 meatballs. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer, and after about an hour, pull it out, pop off the meatballs and place in one or two large freezer bags and store in the freezer.
- 1 28oz can San Marzano plumb tomatoes
- 1 T EVOO
- 1/2 C diced white onion
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 T dried oregano (or 4 T fresh)
- 1 t kosher salt
- 1 t fresh ground pepper
- 1 t crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 T sugar
- 2 basil stalks (stems and leaves), plus 4-6 basil leaves for serving
Open up the can of tomatoes and using kitchen shears, go in there and slice up those tomatoes!
In a saucepan, heat the EVOO over medium heat and add in the onions. Stir until softened and then add the garlic – saute for about a minute, until aromatic. Pour in the tomatoes and the other spices and stir up. Add in the basil stalks and stir them in – then lower the heat down to a simmer (you can put on a lid if it spatters).
Pro tip: Pour in about 1/4 C red wine in the tomato can and swish around and then pour the wine/tomato mixture into your sauce.
For the meatballs, thaw however many you want (we generally do 5-6 for the two of us). In a non-stick pan, heat 1 T of EVOO over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and brown them on all sides. When browned, add into the sauce and stir (gently, you don’t want to break up the balls) and get the sauce back to simmering. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, but you can sure go longer if you want.
Another great option, instead of meatballs, is to wine poach Italian sausage. Cut up links of sausage (we use Johnsonville Hot) to about 2″ long and add to a saucepan with about 1/2 C red wine. Cover and poach on medium heat for about 20 minutes and then add the sausages to the sauce.
For the pasta, we use Famiglia Martelli spaghetti. We heavily salt the water (3 T for about 2-3 quarts) and get it to boiling. This pasta takes quite a while to cook – maybe 20-30 minutes to al-dente! When done, we drain, add back to the pot and mix with about 1/2 C of the sauce, and then split into some large bowls (I like spiraling the pasta into a bird’s nest shape).
Ladle on the sauce and meatballs and top with some shaved parmesan (we use a veggie peeler for nice big shaves) and then add some fresh chiffonaded basil leaves. Pour a few glasses of good red wine and sit down to an easy but amazing Italian feast! Appondanza (remember Anna Maria Alberghetti?)!