Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Yield:  4 Servings


2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

12 ounces ground beef

6 ounces Parmesan, about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped, reserve 2 Tablespoons for garnish

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1 egg

Fresh ground black pepper

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

6 cups canned crushed tomatoes (a little less than two 28-oz cans)

3 bay leaves

1 tsp basil

1 pound spaghetti

Brings a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it.  Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat.

Put the ground beef in a medium bowl.  Grate the cheese, put 1 cup over the meat.  Reserve the rest of the cheese, about 1/2 cup.  Chop 1/2 cup of parsley and add all but 2 Tablespoons to the meat mixture.  Save the rest of the parsley for another use.  Add the bread crumbs and the egg to the mixture.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Gently mix until everything is just combined.

Raise the meat to medium high.  Using a scoop or 2 teaspoons, drop rounds of the meatball mixture into the skillet without touching one another.  Adjust the heat so the meatballs sizzle but do not burn. Cook the meatballs undisturbed until they are lightly browned on the bottom, 5-6 minutes.  Turn and lightly brown.

While the meatballs are browning, trim, peel and chop the onion.  Scatter the diced onion around the meatballs.  Peel and mince or crush the garlic.  Put it on top of the onions.

When the meatballs are browned on the bottom and the aromatics begin to soften, add the tomatoes, basil and bay leaves to the skillet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Adjust the heat to medium low so that the mixture bubbles gently but steadily.  Cover the skillet and cook until the meat cooks through, about 8 minutes.  Remove the lid and let the sauce bubble vigorously to thicken, about another 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir carefully, but only as needed.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and stir.  After five minutes check the pasta.  When it is tender, not mushy, drain it.  Reserve some of the cooking water.  Return the pasta to the pot.

Move the meatballs to one side of the skillet and stir the sauce.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Discard the bay leaves and spoon about half the sauce into the pasta pot.  Toss the pasta over low heat.  Add a splash of cooking water to the pasta to make it saucier, if you like.

To serve, divide the pasta among 4 plates or bowls; top with meatballs and additional sauce.  Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and parsley over the top.