gelatin trick learned from Cooking School.
For the meatballs
- 1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage
- 1/2 lb hot Italian sausage
- 4 oz proscuitto or pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 lb ground beef (80/20)
- 3–4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces (see note below)
- 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk (see note below)
- 3 tbsp flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, finely grated, plus more for garnish
- 1 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin, dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tbsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tbsp table salt)
- 1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 vidalia onions, grated or finely minced
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 28oz. cans crushed tomatoes
- 3 cups tomato juice
- 1/2 cup dry white
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp herbes de provence (optional)
- 1/2 tbsp dried basil
- Salt, pepper, and (pinch) sugar to taste/adjust
- Fresh chopped basil for garnish (optional)
- 1 1/2 lbs dried spaghetti, plus 2 tbsp kosher salt for the pasta water to taste (or 1 tbsp table salt)
For the gelatin:
- Mix the gelatin with the water and allow it to firm up, about 10 minutes. Set aside til ready to use.
For the panade:
- Pour up to 1 cup of buttermilk into a small bowl. Add torn pieces of bread. Allow 3-5 minutes to fully absorb. If after 5 minutes, the mixture is too “soupy”, add just a few more pieces of bread. It should be wet, but not soupy.
For the meatballs:
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a large baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, gently and thoroughly mix the panade, ground beef, Italian sausage, parsley, garlic, eggs, proscuitto, cheese, gelatin, salt, and pepper by hand. Using a 1/3 measuring cup, scoop an even amount of the meatball mixture and gently roll it between your hands to create a ball, placing each ball on the lined baking sheet. You should have about 15 meatballs. Place the baking sheet in your 400 degree oven on the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven and set the meatballs to the side. Turn off the oven.
For the sauce:
- While the meatballs are in the oven; in a large heavy-bottom dutch oven or pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer and get a webby appearance, add the grated onions (save any onion juice from the grating process and set to the side) and cook until softened, about 6 to 10 minutes. Once the onions have softened, add the oregano, red pepper flakes, herbs de provence, dried basil, and garlic. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add your crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, white wine, tomato paste, bay leaves, and any reserved onion juice leftover from the grating process. Increase the heat to medium high to get a nice simmer, and let the mixture cook for 10 minutes (while stirring) before adding the meatballs. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to low and gently place each meatball in the sauce, making sure every meatball is covered. Cover your pot and let the sauce and meatballs continue to cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour over low heat. Make sure you gently stir it around every 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and take this time to taste and season it. You want to wait til the end to season it because the meatballs themselves give the sauce flavor and vice versa. Add salt 1/2 teaspoon at a time, and add sugar 1/2 teaspoon at a time if need be. Taste and repeat. Add black pepper a little at a time as well. Taste again and cover for 5 minutes. Taste it again and adjust it if you’d like. Giving it 5 minutes allows the flavors to meld, and gives your palate time to readjust. Hook it up to your own personal liking. Keep the cover on the pot to keep warm.
For the pasta:
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt, and add your spaghetti. Cook your spaghetti according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You want it to be al dente and not too mushy. Reserve at least 1 cup of starchy pasta water before draining and set to the side in case you need to use it to loosen anything up later. Drain your pasta, and return to the pot (make sure the heat is off). Ladle about 2 cups of the sauce into the pot of pasta and gently toss to make sure each noodle is lightly coated and moist — just enough to keep it from drying out. If your pasta starts to dry out a bit, add just a little of the starchy pasta water to loosen it.
- Serve the spaghetti with 1 to 2 meatballs per bowl with more sauce, and cheese and basil for garnish if using. Enjoy.
For the Panade, start by using just 3/4 cup of buttermilk, but do not exceed 1 cup. Use enough bread to keep the entire mixture moist, but not too soupy.
Serving size depends on how many meatballs everyone wants. You can freeze any leftover meatball & sauce mixture for up to 2 months in the freezer. Use a wooden spoon whenever you’re dealing with tomato sauce to avoid a possible reaction.