So when my cousin came over for Easter weekend, we made quite a bit of food. Among our accomplishments were the muffins and the sushi. We also made chicken pie, which he really really liked. Which made it a hard choice, when we came across this recipe for spaghetti with meatballs in M&S's Easy Pasta cookbook, since he is a huge fan of pasta but still wanted to make another batch of the chicken pie. Unfortunately, since he was leaving the next day, we didn't have time to make both.
The end result was, as you might have guessed, that the pasta won. ;) Now this cousin of mine pioneered the famous spaghetti "recipe" that the boys in our family all love and emulate. A recent addition to this was meatballs from BMC. I'm not too big a fan of those meatballs, I prefer the sausages, but my brother really really likes it.
Anyway, my point was, UK, obviously, doesn't have BMC products available. And according to my cousin, the halal meatballs you can buy from here are not as nice. Also, he is a fan of the meatball marinara filling from Subway. Which is why he wanted to make this dish, because he wants delicious meatballs, hehe. So anyway, I've babbled on enough. Here we go!
What you need:
1 potato, diced
400g fresh steak (beef) mince
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Plain flour, for dusting
5 tablespoons olive oil
400mL passata (sieved tomatoes)
2 tablespoons tomato puree
400g dried spaghetti
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves and Parmesan cheese, to garnish
What you do:
- Place the potato in a small saucepan, add cold water to cover and a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes until tender, then drain. Either mash thoroughly with a potato masher or fork or pass through a potato ricer.
- Combine the potato, steak, onion, egg and parsley in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread out the flour on a plate. With dampened hands, shape the meat mixture into walnut-sized balls and roll in the flour. Shake off any excess.
- Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan, add the meatballs and cook over a medium heat, stirring and turning frequently, for 8-10 minutes, or until golden all over.
- Add the passata and tomato puree and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced and thickened.
- Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the pasta, return to the boil and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite.
- Drain well and add to the meatball sauce, tossing well to coat. Transfer to a warmed serving dish, garnish with the basil leaves and Parmesan cheese shavings and serve immediately.
All in all, I thought this recipe was quite easy to do and definitely not as messy as I thought. My cousin though, the lazy bum, thought it was way too much effort to do and resorted to making bigger and bigger meatballs, haha. In the end, I had to relegate him to just cooking the pasta (he's an expert in that ;) ) while I handled the meatballs. One warning though... you would need a very very large pot. We had to fry the meatballs in two batches in a frying pan, then transfer to a medium-sized saucepan. The meatballs filled the saucepan almost to the brim! We didn't have a choice though, since we didn't have any bigger pots. So when we added the tomato sauce, it was kind of hard to stir without breaking up the meatballs. And we definitely couldn't add the pasta into there, so we just did it the normal way. Mixed up individual portions.
Now, to the important bit... how did it taste? My cousin didn't like the tomato sauce so much, he thought it was a touch too sour. I thought it tasted okay, especially with cheese, but found it a bit too dry for my liking. It would probably have been better if we had added some water in it, or even used a ready-made pasta sauce. Might have tasted slightly better too. So I strongly suggest you just do that. It'll be much more convenient anyway. :)
The meatballs, on the other hand, were a hit. Even though they weren't what my cousin was expecting, he found them quite okay. My aunt really liked them as well. I thought they were fine, except for the onions. The knife I had to work with was not the sharpest of knives, and well... I am not not that used to working with onions, haha. So as a result, my onion was not that finely chopped. I think it would have been better if we had used shallots (easier to chop finely) or even blended the onions in a paste - and throw in the parsley with it. It would have made the meatballs taste more uniform. Plus, the onions kind of ruined the texture of the meatball. And if you do use finely chopped onions/shallots... I suggest you fry them until tender first. Just to get rid of the crunch, and give it a sweeter taste. :)
Apart from that, everything was just fine... though my cousin feels like it would have been better if there was more meat in the tomato sauce itself. I think that's a bit over, but hey... to each his own...
Quote of the day: Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner.