I've always loved the concept of Sunday sauce. There's something very comforting about a leisurely assembled, long-simmered ragu made every week. Maybe you store the sauce in the fridge and eat it all week long, or maybe it gets consumed all at once by a table full of hungry friends and family. I'm half Italian, but never grew up with a grandma who did this sort of thing, which is probably why it appeals to me.
I've written before about how Sunday nights are the most sacred time of the week for me. It's the tail-end of the weekend, right when that horrible dread of returning to work rises up in the back of my throat. Sunday nights are about being at home and soaking up every last bit of comfort before the weekday routine starts all over again.
I don't really live the Italian grandma lifestyle (yet), but the occasional batch of Sunday sauce is a very good thing. Especially when family members come into town and you have the rare chance to sit around a table and tuck into a big platter of spaghetti and meatballs together. It's not fancy food. It's the type of food that provides a cozy backdrop to catch up on family news, the events of the day, or, if you're like us, the latest doings of Charlie Sheen.
Spaghetti and meatballs
From Orangette via Bon Appetit. A note about the breadcrumbs: be sure they are extra, extra dry. Mine were a bit too fresh and they turned a bit mushy after I added the milk. Also, the original recipe calls for you to discard the onions (which are simmered in the tomato sauce until tender) but I like to puree them and add them back in. You can also use an immersion blender to make the sauce extra smooth, but I like a chunkier texture. Do as you wish!
(Serves about 6 people)
2 28 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, halved through root end
1 tsp. salt
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French or country-style bread
1/3 cup whole milk
8 oz. ground beef (15% fat)
8 oz. ground pork
1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 large eggs
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 lb. spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)
Combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onions, and salt in large wide pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the onions and puree them, along with a cup of sauce, in a blender. Add the pureed onions back into the sauce and stir until combined. (Use an immersion blender at this point if you want a smoother consistency.) Season sauce with more salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a small bowl and stir until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Let stand 10 minutes. Place beef and pork in large bowl and break up into small chunks. Add 1 cup ground Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper. Whisk eggs in a small bowl and add the garlic. Pour over the meat mixture. Using your hands, squeeze milk from breadcrumbs, reserving milk. (My breadcrumbs fully absorbed the milk.) Add the breadcrumbs to meat mixture. Use your hands to quickly and gently mix the meat mixture just until all ingredients are evenly combined. Do not overmix). Chill the mixture for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Using your hands, roll the meat mixture into golf-ball-size balls, occasionally moistening hands with water (or the reserved milk) as needed and arranging meatballs in single layer in sauce in pot. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. (My meatballs needed 30 minutes--be sure to cut one open to make sure it is fully cooked.)
Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to platter. Add pasta to sauce in pot and toss to coat. Divide pasta among plates, or arrange it on one large platter. Top with meatballs and more freshly grated Parmesan cheese.