Perhaps more than any other meal, I associate spaghetti meatballs with the movies, specifically The Godfather Part 1. The youngest son of Don Corleone, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is slowly become more and more enmeshed in the mob, and caporegime Peter Clemenza, in a scene dripping with symbolism, invites Michael to learn how to make meatball sauce. In a nifty shorthand recipe, Clemenza says to him "Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o' wine. An' a little bit o' sugar, and that's my trick." And it is that easy.
Meatball spaghetti is great comfort food. Tasty, soft, and popular even with the children, I have been making this recipe for close to 20 years. From time to time, I have experimented with other recipes, including one that tricked up the meatballs with pine nuts. But in the end, I think that for this dish at least, simple is way better than fussy. My meatballs aren't any more complicated than Clemenza's, in fact the basic recipe is the same, although I skip the sugar and the tomato paste. And the guns.
Spaghetti Con Polpettine
adapted from "The Top 100 Pasta Sauces" by Diane Seed
2 cloves garlic
400g minced beef
2 small slices white bread, crusts removed
1 tbl parsley
1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan plus more to serve
2 tbl olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 wineglass white wine
400g tinned tomatoes, pureed
1/4 cup stock
Put the garlic and mince in a food processor and whiz until well-combined and the garlic is chopped, then add the bread, parsley and cheese. Whiz again until well-combined. Season to taste. Roll the mince into small balls about the size of a walnut, then roll the balls in a little flour, shaking off excess.
Heat the oil, add the onion until it is soft and translucent. Add the meatballs and cook over a low heat until they are browned on all sides. Shaking the pan regularly will help. Add the wine, bring it to the boil and reduce by half, then add the tomatoes and stock. Cover and cook over a medium low heat for an hour, stirring from time to time. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to your packet directions. Serve sauce over cooked spaghetti with extra parmesan to taste.