Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Classic Italian-American Feast!

One of my all time favorite Italian-American meals is Spaghetti & Meatballs. It is just so heart-warming and some serious comfort food. It snowed here in Toronto most of Saturday so when I finished my Christmas shopping and was trying to think of what to make for dinner, Spaghetti & Meatballs seemed perfect. I wasn't sure when the boy would be done work, which was perfect because the longer the sauce cooks the better AND we already had some ground turkey that needed to be used. I also remembered that we had some Italian sausages in the freezer that would round out my sauce perfectly. It couldn't have worked out better if I had actually planned it. Be advised the measurements are not exact, so just use them as a guide and trust your own personal taste.

Spaghetti Sauce with Turkey Meatballs & Sausage

3 cloves of garlic - minced
1 small onion - roughly chopped
2 tsp or more crushed red pepper flake
2 large cans of tomato puree (using one can of puree and one diced makes for a nice chunky sauce)
1/2 cup red wine
1 lb ground turkey
1/4-1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmigiano
1/4 cup or more dried oregano (separated)
1/4 cup or more dried basil (separated)
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 egg
3-4 mild Italian sausage
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper & sugar to taste

1. In a large sauce pot or Dutch Oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Once it's hot add the minced garlic, onions and red pepper flake. Saute until onions become translucent and soft, being careful not to brown the garlic.
2. Add the canned tomatoes and lower heat to medium low. Bring sauce to a simmer and add 2 Tbsp oregano, 2 Tbsp basil, fresh cracked pepper (approx 5 turns of the pepper mill) and a bit of salt. Mix in and bring back up to a simmer, add red wine and lower heat to low allowing to simmer while you make the meatballs. Remember to stir is occasionally so it doesn't burn.
3. In a large bowl add turkey, 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup parmigiano, 2 Tbsp oregano, 2 Tbsp basil, garlic powder, fresh cracked pepper (4-5 turns of the pepper mill), salt and the egg. Mix ingredients together with your hands until well combined, but being careful not to overwork. Mixture should be a bit sticky and form a ball easily, but not be too slippery or wet. If it's too wet add the remaining parmigiano first and if necessary add more breadcrumbs. If you go overboard adding the dry ingredients and it's too dry, add another egg.
4. Form balls with the meat mixture. I make mine about the size of an apricot or a small plum. 1 lb of meat will make 8 meatballs at this size. Transfer the balls onto a plate or cookie sheet and put in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to allow them to set.
5. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once heated add the sausages and brown to a golden brown on each side. If the skillet is hot enough approx 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from skillet to a cutting board and cut sausage into 3 pieces. Transfer the sausage pieces to the pot with the sauce.
6. Once the meatballs have set, heat the skillet over medium high heat (if you are using nonstick you shouldn't need any oil, but if you aren't add a Tbsp of olive oil). Transfer the meatballs to the hot skillet, making sure you have room to turn them. Brown meatballs on all sides (approx 1-2 mins per side) and transfer the browned meatballs to the simmering sauce.
7. Raise the heat to medium low to finish cooking the sausages and meatballs, stirring occasionally, approx 15 mins. Taste the sauce and adjust spicing as necessary. I usually add some more oregano and basil here. Then add sugar a teaspoon at a time to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes, not to sweeten it. It's ready to serve after 5-10 more mins on medium low or lower the heat to low and let simmer until you are ready to serve with spaghetti or the pasta of your choosing (I like whole wheat spaghetti).

I recommend letting this sauce cook as long as possible, the longer the meatballs and sausage simmer in the sauce the better it gets. And always taste the sauce as you go so you can adjust the spices to what you like. You can used seasoned breadcrumbs in the meatballs and cut out all the other spices. I generally keep the plain ones in the house so I can spice them according to whatever recipe I am making.

This was a great meal for the boy to come home to after a long day of working on set outside in the snow. It was even better last night for dinner again! When you make this be sure to make enough for leftovers because it's even better the second time. It freezes well too, which is what I am going to do tonight with the rest of our leftovers. Enjoy!

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