Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meatballs and Spaghetti the Barefoot Contessa Way and Stuffed Artichokes

Those of you who visit The Food of Love regularly know that I have been drawing on two of Ina Garten's cookbooks for a great many of my recent posts. Up to this point, she'd been batting a thousand. While her recipe for meatballs and spaghetti wasn't bad, it just couldn't compare to my usual Sunday gravy and meatballs. She is upfront about the fact that this isn't something her mother made and goes on to reveal that she did some research for her recipe. She discovered an old trick that we use to keep the meatballs moist and fluffy--the addition of water. Unfortunately, no one told her that you need to use some grated onion and minced garlic to give the meatballs some flavor. Her meatballs used the same proportions of beef, veal, and pork that I always use. While she used fresh white bread crumbs, she neglected to soak them in milk for added richness. The addition of a scant amount of nutmeg really didn't affect the taste one way or another. If you don't like onions and garlic, you may prefer Ina's meatballs.

Her sauce recipe was a bit more successful, but only as a quick sauce. I also believe the good result was for two reasons. First and foremost, I never use any canned tomato unless it is from San Marzano. Second, I had no other red wine in the house other than a port. This turned out to be a happy thing because it imparted an additional sweetness to the sauce which, otherwise, would have been rather bland.

So, while I wouldn't condemn Ina for her attempt at Italian food, I'd recommend that you go to my sidebar and use my own recipe for meatballs and tomato sauce (located under Pasta Recipes and within "Never Say Basta to Pasta).

Ina's Meatballs - 16 meatballs
1/2 lb ground veal (I had to grind my own since no markets around do it)
1/2 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs--4 slices, crusts removed
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbs fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I prefer Locatelli)
2 tsp salt (I recommend using just 1 tsp because of the cheese)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
vegetable oil
olive oil

Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 1/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combne very lightly with a fork. Use your hands to lightly form the mixture into about 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable and olive oil int a large skillet. Heat the oil, then carefully place the meatballs in the oil, in batches, and brown well on all sides. Remove to a plate covered with paper towels to drain. Discard the oil, but don't clean the pan.

Ina's Tomato Sauce
1 tbs olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1 28 oz can plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tbs chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp salt (I prefer 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the 1 tbs olive oil in the same pan in which the meatballs were fried. Add the onion and saute about 8 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up the brown bits, until almost all the liquid evaporates. This step is critical to get some flavor. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Return the meatballs to the sauce. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. Serve hot over cooked spaghetti and pass the grated cheese.

The sauce had a decent flavor and is something I would make again for a quick mid-week meal. With the spaghetti and meatballs, I served some stuffed artichokes. Again, I used a new recipe and it was tasty, but not as good as using a stuffing similar to what I use for my Thanksgiving bird. The recipe was on the side of the can of artichoke bottoms.

Stuffed Artichokes
2 cans artichoke bottoms (I used Cento)
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 tsp butter
4 oz pancetta, diced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups flavored bread crumbs (these are drier than freshly made)
3/4 cup grated cheese
4 tbs garlic
3 tbs freshly chopped parsley
2 tbs freshly chopped basil
1 tsp freshly grated black pepper
juice of 1 lemom

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Soak the artichoke bottoms in cold water.

Saute the onions in the butter until tender. Set aside. In a small sauce pan, cook the pancetta in 1 tbs olive oil.
In a large bowl, combine the onion, pancetta, and all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese.

Remove the artichoke bottoms from the water and pat dry. Put a drop of oil in the center of each and stuff generously with the mixture. Place bottoms in an oven-proof casserole and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.


  1. What is it with these chefs? None of them can make good meatballs! I tried a Tyler Florence recipe for spaghetti and meatballs and they were horrible!
    I looked all through your categories and archives and couldn't find your recipe for meatballs. Where is is?

  2. I think everyone has their own special way of making meatballs that make them unique, and always hard to replicate :-)

    I like your artichoke recipe!

    PS The Benjamin Button movie is very different from Fitzgerald's short story --only his name and his aging backward is the same, but it was artfully developed by Roth. I think you'd enjoy it!

  3. You are so funny..."never say basta to pasta"! I love it. I'm a pasta lover so I would NEVER EVER say basta. You know, I caught that about Ina. I love 90 percent of her recipes, but I did notice something missing in her meatball recipe. So glad I have yours. Hugs my friend. :)

  4. I also put garlic and onion in the meatballs, it tastes much better.
    Very interesting recipe, the artichokes. I didn't know you have those in cans, here we only find them fresh.

  5. This is one of my favorite recipes. You may want to check out this website for people who love Ina and blog through her recipes together.

  6. Thanks for posting the link Treehouse...I love Ina but shes rarely on over here in the UK and her cooks aren't the easiest to get. Love Barefoot Contessa! :)


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