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Welcome to My Hungry Boys where I share what I love to cook for my husband and our four sons.   I've made a lot of food over the years and I've learned a lot in the process. 

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I love routines.  They're just so comfortable.  Growing up, we had many food routines... pizza with birch beer every Friday night; spaghetti and meatballs (or a variant such as lasagna) every Sunday at noon; we even had pancakes or waffle ice cream sandwiches every Sunday night (for dinner, not dessert!).  Waffle ice cream sandwiches for dinner was one of those wonderful but crazy traditions that went against everything I thought a meal was supposed to be as a child.  But regardless of how amazing waffles and ice cream sounds, it still wasn't my favorite dinner of the week.  My two favorites will always be pizza and spaghetti and meatballs.

With spaghetti and meatballs, some advanced planning is recommended but not necessary (as I mentioned in my tomato sauce write-up, I prefer sauce when it sits in the refrigerator for one or two days beforehand because I think it deepens the flavor).  Also, while I do love homemade fresh pasta, I personally think spaghetti and meatballs are even better with dry spaghetti.

For the gluten intolerant, I've included a meatball recipe without breadcrumbs (scroll down).  And for a completely gluten-free meal, substitute lentil pasta for wheat pasta.  (I've experimented with a variety of gluten-free pastas, including quinoa and corn pastas, and my favorite is red lentil penne.)  Just make sure not to overcook the pasta, as gluten-free pasta tend to become gummy if overcooked.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Pot of tomato sauce (see my recipe here)

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti (or more as needed)

  • One batch of meatballs (see recipe below) or gluten-free meatballs (see further down)

  • Parmigiano Reggiano (to serve)

Split the sauce into two pots: one that's shallow and wide for the pasta (I use a 12" diameter enamel cast iron skillet), and a deep one for simmering the meatballs.  Place ~4 cups of sauce in the skillet and the remaining sauce in the pot.  After browning the meatballs, place them in the pot of sauce and simmer on low until cooked through.

Place a large pot of cold water over high heat (the largeness of the pot is essential, as pasta shouldn't be crowded when it cooks).  When the water is hot, add a few tablespoons of kosher salt to the pot (very salty water is important for flavoring the pasta).  Bring to a boil.  Add the spaghetti, stirring with tongs and slowly bending the pasta so that it all fits into the pot.  Stir occasionally and separate the strands whenever they cling together.  Return to a boil and cook for 1 minute less than the package states for al dente pasta.  When the pasta is almost ready, use tongs to directly place them in a skillet of simmering sauce.  Stir and simmer so that the pasta finishes cooking in the sauce.  Add approximately one ladleful of the starchy cooking water for consistency.  Serve the pasta alongside the pot of meatballs along with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Meatballs

  • 1½ pounds ground beef

  • ½ pound ground pork (or substitute additional ground beef, if preferred)

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

  • 2 ounces tomato paste

  • 3 ounces bread crumbs (¾ cup regular breadcrumbs, ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon panko breadcrumbs)

  • ⅔ cup buttermilk (or substitute whole milk)

  • 2 whole large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano

  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

  • Kosher salt

  • Ground black pepper

  • Olive oil

Sauté one finely chopped large onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil with ½ teaspoon kosher salt.  When soft add chopped garlic.  When aromatic add 2 tablespoons tomato paste.  Cook until color darkens (~5-10 minutes).  Cool completely.  Add buttermilk to bread crumbs, allowing time to saturate completely.

Combine a mix of ground meat to total 2 pounds.  (I grind the meat myself as it assures quality and freshness, but it isn't necessary.)  Add cooled onions, saturated breadcrumbs, beaten eggs and yolk, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, chopped parsley and 2 ounces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Combine gently, being careful not to overwork the meat.  Refrigerate for one hour.  Form into balls and place on parchment-lined sheet pan.  Freeze briefly or overnight (this helps the balls hold their shape).  Move frozen meatballs to a Ziploc bag for storage.  Drizzle olive oil on a sheet pan and place in a 375°F oven to preheat.  When hot, place frozen meatballs on pan and place pan on the lowest rack in your oven (that’s where my meatballs do the best browning), turning them occasionally until crispy (~30 minutes).  Place meatballs on a plate lined with paper towels in order to drain oil, then place in a slowly simmering pot of tomato sauce.

Gluten-Free Meatballs

Inspired from a recipe by Rocco DeSpirito.

  • 1½ pounds ground beef

  • ½ pound ground pork (or substitute additional ground beef, if preferred)

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

  • 2 ounces tomato paste

  • 1 eggplant

  • ¼ cup stock of your choice (2 ounces)

  • 2 whole large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano

  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

  • Kosher salt

  • Ground black pepper

  • Olive oil

Sauté one finely chopped large onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil with ½ teaspoon kosher salt.  When soft add chopped garlic.  When aromatic add 2 tablespoons tomato paste.  Cook until color darkens (~5-10 minutes).  Cool completely. 

Cut eggplant in half, placing it cut-side down on a sheet pan, then roast it in a 375°F oven until soft ( ~ 40 minutes).  Scoop out soft flesh to equal 4 ounces ( ~ ½  cup).  Place eggplant flesh in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Combine a mix of ground meat to total 2 pounds.  (I grind the meat myself as it assures quality and freshness, but it isn't necessary.)  Add cooled onions, beaten eggs and yolk, pureed eggplant, 2 ounces stock, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, chopped parsley and 2 ounces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Combine gently, being careful not to overwork the meat.  Refrigerate for one hour.  Form into balls and place on parchment-lined sheet pan.  Freeze briefly or overnight (this helps the balls hold their shape).  Move frozen meatballs to a Ziploc bag for storage.  Drizzle olive oil on a sheet pan and place in a 375°F oven to preheat.  When hot, place frozen meatballs on pan and place pan on the lowest rack in your oven (that’s where my meatballs do the best browning), turning them occasionally until crispy (~30 minutes).  Place meatballs on a plate lined with paper towels in order to drain oil, then place in a slowly simmering pot of tomato sauce.

Slow Cooked Beans

Slow Cooked Beans

Onion-Garlic Tortilla Stackers

Onion-Garlic Tortilla Stackers