Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spaghetti with Meatballs


These days there is no limit to what food can become, to the heights (and breadth) that food can reach. You have food that looks like one thing, and tastes like another. You taste old flavors in new forms, and new flavors in old forms. Junk food becomes haute cuisine and the other way around. Instead of stews or braises, you have foam and pearls and flavored air. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against flavored air. It must surely be a step above the air I get outside my window that wafts up fragrantly from the city street below. I definitely applaud chefs that push the culinary envelope, reinventing the way we experience taste and flavor. It’s a whole new world out there, an exciting time to be alive and eating, and I for one, am all for rushing headlong into its newness, its mystique, and the discovery of new gastronomic frontiers.

But sometimes…sometimes. Sometimes, you need food that is like a warm blanket on a chilly night, food that is like a salve on a sore spot, the type of food that makes you feel better when a stupid boy breaks your heart or when the world seems full of thin girls. Forget the apples; comfort me with spaghetti and meatballs.

This is a dish we’ve made in my mother’s house countless times, and I now make in my own home. The recipe for the meatballs is what we have used since time forgotten for burgers, meatballs, even meatloaf. It is a half-breed mince-mix full of extenders…beef-purists look away! But I find that no other meat patty is as tender or as tasty. Of course, you may substitute your own favorite mince mixture.

Spaghetti with Meatballs

For the meatballs

  • 250 grams ground beef
  • 250 grams ground pork
  • ½ cup oats
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon mustard
  • 1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper


  • For the Sauce
  • Olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 400-gram cans chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup white wine (or red, we’re not picky here)
  • Oregano (fresh if available or dried)
  • Thyme (fresh of available or dried)
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

    For the Noodles
  • 500 grams spaghetti noodles, prepared as per package instructions

    - First make the meatballs. Soak the oats in the milk until soft. Then add garlic, onion, egg, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Add the ground meats to this and knead until just combined (don’t over mix!). Roll into balls of your desired size.
    - Heat some oil in a pan. Fry meatballs until nicely browned, then remove from pan and set aside.
    - In the same pan add a little more olive oil. Sauté garlic and onions until onions are soft and translucent. If your herbs are dried add them now (no measurements here, I just do it by feel. It all depends on how “herby” you want your sauce).
    - As soon as the aroma of the herbs hits your nose, pour in wine and stir.
    - Add chopped tomatoes. If your herbs are fresh add them now. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    - Return meatballs to pan and simmer until sauce reduces slightly.
    - Adjust seasoning if needed.
    - Pour the whole lot over your prepared noodles and serve.
    - Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and dried chili flakes for spice.

    This is perfect in a deep bowl and taken with you into the depths of your sofa on a stormy night when the world just won’t see things your way. It’s also great in large quantities, piled high on huge platters for big and boisterous family lunches when everyone is laughing and giddy. It is also particularly delicious when you’re curled up in your rattiest pyjamas with a really scary suspense novel.

    Whichever way, when I feel like life’s lights are whizzing by a little too quickly, and I get the urge to “sit this one out”, you’ll find me hidden in some quiet spot, wearing my “comfy clothes”, with a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.


  • This is my entry to Presto Pasta Nights, a great new event brought to you by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. She does a weekly roundup every Friday so we can all have delicious new pasta dishes in time for the weekend. Thanks Ruth!

    30 comments:

    Patricia Scarpin said...

    Joey,
    I've made meatballs my entire life but never used pork and beef together - I like the idea! João is gonna love this!

    MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

    I can't imagine any meatball etc without oats! My mother always used it and I do too. Wish I could come to dinner!

    veron said...

    I agree, nothing like spaghetti and meatballs. It's one of those ultimate comfort food!

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Patricia! I find it gives it more flavor :)

    Hi Tanna! Oh I'm so happy I'm not alone in using oats :)

    Hi Veron! Definitely! It never loses its comfort-powers for me :)

    Mary said...

    Spaghetti and meatballs are on the top of my comfort food list. I make mine with a mix of beef, pork and veal. Purists be darned. :)

    christine said...

    Jo, I'm so intrigued! I don't think I've ever had meatball sauce made with oats and I want to try! C has raved about this one before so it must be that good. :) Thanks for posting the recipe, will definitely make this soon!

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Mary! I would love to put veal in mine but it's not as readily available here...

    Hi Nens! The oats are in the meatballs not in the sauce, heehee :) This is one of those things that C asks for if I haven't made it in a while...

    elit said...

    Wow! i never thought that oats are used in meatballs, now that is something i gotta try. Thanks for sharing your family recipe with us! Sobrang convincing yung experience mo when you eat this spaghetti, kaka engganyo! :)

    Midge said...

    Yum, spaghetti and meatballs! I'll send you my sausage-meatball recipe soon, Joey. It's just plain amazing with pasta and so easy to do!

    Rose said...

    I just can't resist spaghetti and meatballs, but my comfort food of all time is mashed potato with roasted chicken and a chocolate mousse. Got to have some chocolate.

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Elit! Thanks for dropping in and I'm glad you enjoyed the post :) Oats in meatballs or burgers is an extender, like bread or breadcrumbs. A lot of people prefer all-meat patties but for some reason I feel the extenders make it "fluffier"...hehe :)

    Hi Midge! Yes, please do! Ooooh, sausage!

    Hi Rose! That sounds like a great combination! I agree, chocolate can definitely beat the blues! :)

    jenjen said...

    You're completely right, nothing beats homecooked comfort food like this. Not even when a restaurant is offering the tastiest foam, I will still choose this.

    Freya and Paul said...

    This is the perfect comfort food! I love spaghetti and meatballs and yours looks delicious!

    Lori said...

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours, Joey. I like the line, "the type of food that makes you feel better when a stupid boy breaks your heart or when the world seems full of thin girls. Forget the apples; comfort me with spaghetti and meatballs." How true.

    Now that I'm a mom, my life is consumed with sweet spaghetti littered with hotdogs. It's all right, but there are times when I crave for something more adult and rustic, like this dish of yours. Thank you for making comfort, forgotten food look so good again.

    angelika said...

    Oh this looks so good - and comforting. I can only echo Lori - those two or three sentences are really literature. Perfectly defined, Joey ! You are so right.

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Jenjen! I agree...although I do love to try new things food-wise, I always find my way back to things like this :)

    Hi Freya! Thank you! :) It is a great comfort food indeed :)

    Hi Lori! Thank you so much for such a nice comment :) The reason the line rings true is because it is...I have definitely gone through my share. I'm glad you enjoyed this post!

    Hi Angelika! Thank you! Like I was saying to Lori, these times really happen, and all I can say is...thank god for food like this! :)

    Ruth Daniels said...

    I can't think of too many dishes more comforting than this. Thanks for sharing.

    Ruth Daniels said...

    PS - this would be a great entry for Presto Pasta Nights - just mention the link and I'll add it to the roundup.

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Ruth! Hooray! I was thinking the same thing :) I'm going to put the link up now! :)

    Anonymous said...

    I agree. Fancy fare is well great but sometimes it just can't match good old comfort food! Your spaghetti and meatballs look really good. I wouldn't mind gobbling that up. Yum!


    Ari (Baking and Books)

    Peabody said...

    You can never go wrong with a classic.

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Ari! Thanks! :)

    Hi Peabody! I agree :)

    Honeybee said...

    That look soooo good. I like to make meatballs myself. See here
    http://beurreetpain.blogspot.com/2006/09/polpette-al-sugo.html and I think pork really adds to the flavour! I use soaked bread to make them lightler but oats seem like a great idea, too!

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Honeybee! Thanks! :) Yes, the pork does make it tastier for me...and I think the soaked bread and soaked oats are interchangeable :) That polpette looks great!

    meganhahaha said...

    Hello! It's my first time to comment I believe, hehe.

    Anyway, as soon as I've read your recipe, I tried it, and WAGI sa aking mga kapatid! Although I had to use all pork because we didn't have beef, and we also ran out of mustard. Wagi pa rin! :D

    Super comfort food, sobra!

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Meganhahaha! Thanks for dropping in with a comment! :) I'm so glad to hear na wagi sya sa mga kapatid mo! :)

    dressPLANET said...

    pasta is the best! all time favorites...spaghetti, lasagna, noodles, etc

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Dressplanet! I agree...you can reinvent pasta dishes in countless ways :)

    Sashindoubutsu said...

    wow! yummy! :p

    ChichaJo said...

    Thanks Sashindoubutsu!