An Italian-American dish, spaghetti and meatballs is comfort food for generations. I’ve cooked it so many times but I have to admit that it’s only recently that I found the real secret to the best meatballs for this dish.
Lighter and bouncier meatballs. Not overbearingly dense. That’s how I like them.
The secret is in the kneading. Just like kneading dough when making bread. You knead dough to coax the formation of gluten. You knead ground meat to break down fibers, turn the bits of meat into a paste that binds more reasily with the other ingredients in the mix.
Don’t think it’s a lot of hard work. A few minutes of kneading by hand is enough. But if you want to hasten the process even more, dump the ground beef mixture into the mixer and knead with the paddle attachment.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 250 grams ground beef with at least 20% fat
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried onion
- ½ teaspoon dried garlic
- ⅓ cup grated Pecorino
- ¼ cup bread crumbs Japanese panko is recommended
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 150 grams spaghetti
- grated Pecorino
- basil leaves
Make the meatballs
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Place the ground beef in a mixing bowl.
- Add salt, pepper, dried onion and dried garlic.
- Mix until combined.
- Add the Pecorino and mix.
- Add the bread crumbs and baking powder. Mix until blended.
- Add the egg and mix to incorporate.
- Knead in the mixing bowl for a few minutes until everything comes together and the bits of meat appear smaller.
- Form into balls an inch and half in diameter, and arrange on a lightly oiled baking tray.
- Brown in the oven for 15 minutes.
Cook the sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a pan.
- Spread the chopped onion, garlic and oregano leaves in the hot oil and saute for a few minutes.
- Pour in the tomato sauce, add a teaspoon of salt, a quarter teaspoon of pepper and, optionally, a teaspoon of sugar.
- Bring to the boil, cover and leave to simmer.
Cook the spaghetti
- Boil water in a pot and add a teaspoon of salt.
- Dump in the spaghetti, leave until pliable, then stir during the first minute of boiling.
Complete the dish
- Take the meatballs out of the oven and dump into the simmering sauce.
- Simmer for a few minutes then taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- While the spaghetti is still a bit undercooked, drain and dump into the sauce.
- Toss just until combined.
- Serve your spaghetti and meatballs with more grated Pecorino and whole basil leaves.