It would seem that fall has officially arrived. I am always reluctant to let go of summer, but something about the crisp air brings on wishes for apple cider doughnuts (of which I had some last weekend), warm soup, and sitting by a fire. Lately, I have had a particular craving for classic spaghetti and meatballs. Of course, growing up in my family, the classic meatballs were Swedish, not Italian (but just as delicious). However, having studied abroad in Italy, I came to love Italian food and culture -- and in fact, one of my uncles is convinced we are part Italian, so you never know. In any case, these meatballs make an excellent and hearty dinner, and even better leftovers for lunch the next day. I modified the recipe to make it slightly healthier by using mostly ground turkey instead of pork, but you could also use pork only. I also love how the ricotta makes the meatballs surprisingly light.
Spaghetti and Meatballs (adapted from Food & Wine, serves 6-8)
1/2 pound sliced white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch dice (4 cups)
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/2 pound lean ground pork
3 ounces thickly sliced pancetta or bacon, minced
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup ricotta cheese (5 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Two 28-ounce cans peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons shredded basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
16 oz spaghetti or fettuccine (I used whole-wheat)
Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, pulse the bread to coarse crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl and add the turkey, pork, pancetta, eggs, ricotta, parsley, thyme, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Mix well. Shape into 20 meatballs, using about 3-4 rounded tablespoons of the mixture for each. Transfer the meatballs to a medium roasting pan.
Roast the meatballs in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until firm and just beginning to brown. Meanwhile, puree the canned tomatoes in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Using a spatula, loosen the meatballs from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato sauce to the pan and season well with salt and pepper. Lower the oven temperature to 325° and cook uncovered for about 2 hours, or until the sauce is very thick and the meatballs are very tender; turn the meatballs once or twice during cooking.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add spaghetti or fettuccine and boil until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil so the noodles don't stick.
To serve, place 3-4 oz. pasta in a bowl. Spoon sauce and 2 or 3 meatballs over pasta. Garnish with basil and Parmigiano Reggiano and serve hot.