Pasta and meatball sauce
Pasta e salsa di polpette
This is it – the ultimate Italian recipe, the one that is still going strong! Every Italian family has their own version of their meatball sauce but this one, handed down from our late father, made with love, really is the best! Around the world, most people accompany this sauce with spaghetti but in Italy, it is always served with either rigatoni or penne pasta.
Pasta with meatballs brings back such wonderful memories of our summers in Bari. Sitting round the table, our aunties and uncles and about 20 of our cousins! The smell of the cooking meatball sauce wafting around us! We would sneak into the kitchen, grab a chunk of bread and when no one was watching, dip it into the sauce then burn the roof of our mouths because it was so hot but my goodness, it was worth it!
The meatballs in this recipe can be any size but my brother and sisters love them mini sized – about the size of a marble. This size is also perfect when making a pasta al forno (recipe for next month!). A perfect dish for the family. It can be frozen in batches and reheats really well. Have some crusty bread ready to dip in – just to check the taste of the sauce of course!
For the tomato sauce:
4 tablespoons of Terre Di San Vito extra virgin olive oil for cooking
1onion finely chopped
Handful fresh basil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 jars Passata (around 690g each or the cartons)
Salt and pepper to taste
For the meatballs:
900g minced meat (equal amounts of pork, veal and beef)
Approx 200g grated parmesan or romano cheese (you will need more cheese
for garnishing when serving)
Handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 slices white bread (no crust)
1 glass milk
2 large eggs
2 cloves garlic very finely chopped
Salt and pepper
500g Penne or Rigatoni pasta (or any pasta of choice)
First, prepare the sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat
When warm, add the finely chopped onions and sauté for about 5 minutes or until they are translucent.
Then add the chopped garlic, do not let it burn.
Once it is lightly golden, add the 2 jars pf passata.
Fill one of the empty passata jars with water, swish it around the bottle (with the lid on!) then pour it into the second empty jar. When all the remaining sauce has been collected by the swirling water, add it to your sauce.
Add a teaspoon and a half of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper and stir the sauce.
Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, add a lid and let it cook for at least an hour. Low and slow. After approx. 30 min, taste your sauce to see if you need to add more seasoning (with a spoon or by dipping in a chunk of crusty bread – but remember – it is hot!)
Next, prepare the meatballs:
In a small bowl, place the 4 slices of white bread (remove crust) and enough milk to cover. Leave the bread to absorb the milk.
In a large mixing bowl, add the minced meat, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, parmesan/romano and 2 beaten eggs.
Remove the bread from the milk and lightly squeeze it to remove the excess liquid (this will make your meatballs light and fluffy) and add it to the meat mixture.
With your freshly washed hands, blend all the ingredients together.
This is where you will need to decide on the size of your meatballs. For the mini meatballs, approx. 1 teaspoon of meat (a lot of work but kids love the little ones!) for a larger meatball, about a heaped tablespoon. This will require a bit of time but you will have a lot of meatballs!
Form your meatballs and place them on a tray/plate.
When you have done this, have a sip of wine! Then remove the lid off the sauce, carefully drop each ball in to the sauce – be careful not to drop them from a height!
Bring the heat up slightly so that they simmer in the sauce but do not let it boil.
The meatballs need to cook for about 30 minutes. Have a quick taste to see if you need to add any more salt and pepper.
Finally, boil the pasta:
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
Add a tablespoon of salt then add your chosen pasta.
I cannot emphasise the importance of sufficiently salting your water for the pasta. The pasta will not absorb all the salt but if it is under seasoned, the whole dish will be ruined.
Follow the recommended cooking time for your chosen pasta as directed on the packet.
Once cooked, drain the water. You will need to use the saucepan for mixing so don’t wash the pan up just yet!
I am salivating as I write this. In fact, I am sure I can smell the delicious sauce cooking!
Add the chopped basil to your tomato and meatball sauce and give a light stir.
In the large empty saucepan where you cooked the pasta, put your drained pasta and add approx 5 ladles of the incredible sauce.
Mix together well.
Then either transfer this to a serving dish or into individual bowls.
Add the meatballs on top of the pasta and a good handful of either parmesan or romano cheese.
Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste.
Ensure you use plenty of salt in the water when cooking your pasta otherwise it will reduce the flavour of the sauce.
Let your tomato sauce cook long and slow – the longer the better before adding the meatballs.
You can use other minced meat combinations as veal is sometimes difficult to find in the UK. Most people use beef and pork or just beef but I do not recommend using pork only as it will not give you the right balance of flavours.
This will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days and will taste even better!
This sauce is used in next month’s pasta al forno so freeze any remaining sauce!
Serve with a bottle of our fabulous Terre Di San Vito Cantiniere Primitivo wine.