October 28, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Quick Marinara Sauce

Recently I made up a batch of spaghetti and meatballs.  I didn't make the meatballs myself.  Instead, I used some of the meatballs made at Graziano Bros. Grocery, which we picked up during a recent shopping trip and kept in the freezer until we were ready to use them.  If you are going to do any sort of Italian cooking and live anywhere near Des Moines, Graziano Bros. is the place to shop.

I didn't make the pasta, either.  From what I've read and seen, making pasta for oneself is more trouble than it is worth, so I'm perfectly happy to buy good pasta made by someone else.  But I did make the marinara sauce, from my own recipe.  The recipe includes an important time-saving step, though at the cost of needing to wash an extra pan.
My very first step in preparing the meal was to start cooking the crushed tomatoes.  After getting that going, I started heating up the oven to 350 degrees.  Before it was heated up, I took the meatballs out of the freezer, put them atop a wire rack above a casserole dish and put them in the oven.  This way they could defrost and cook while I got everything else ready.   After frying up the onions and garlic, I started boiling water for the pasta, then went back to finishing up the marinara.  By having already cooked down the crushed tomatoes during the same time I was making the rest of the sauce, I saved a bunch of time from what it would have taken to add the tomatoes to the Dutch oven directly from the can and then have the sauce cook down and thicken.  This way, all I had to do was mix the thickened crushed tomatoes with the mixture in the Dutch oven, then mix in the cheeses and fresh basil. 

Next I added the meatballs - nicely cooked by this time - to the sauce and stirred them around to coat them.  By then the water was boiling, so I tossed the spaghetti into the pot with the boiling water, stirred it to keep it from sticking together, then got the marinara and meatballs ready to serve while the pasta cooked.   A few minutes later the pasta was drained and everything was ready to serve.  All that remained was to grate some Parmesan atop the served-up pasta, then it was time to eat.  

The sauce was richly flavorful and had a wonderful, thick texture that stuck well to the spaghetti and which wasn't the least bit watery.  Juli and I both think it compares well to the best red sauces we've had in better Italian restaurants, and surpasses most of them.  But, as always, I invite you to try it out for yourself.  If you do, let us know what you think.

Quick Marinara Sauce

yield = 5-6 servings
36     ounces crushed tomatoes (one large 28-oz can plus another cup)
2       tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1       large onion, minced
1       teaspoon minced garlic
1       6 ounce can of tomato paste
2       teaspoons dried oregano
1/2    cup red wine (I used a Merlot)
1/4    cup water
1       teaspoon sugar
1       teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1       teaspoon salt
1/8    teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4    cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1       tablespoon freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
2       tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Heat crushed tomato in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook it until it has thickened significantly.
Meanwhile, add the oil to a Dutch oven and heat at medium-high.  Add the onion and cook it, stirring frequently, until golden.  Stir in the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, then stir in the tomato paste and oregano and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).   Reduce heat to medium, stir in the red wine and water and cook for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the sugar, black pepper, salt and red pepper flakes.   
By that point, the crushed tomato should have cooked down.  Add the thickened crushed tomatoes to the Dutch oven, stir thoroughly and cook for about 2 minutes to let the flavors blend.  Stir in the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses and the basil and cook for 2-3 minutes.  
If you are serving the sauce alone over pasta, ravioli, etc., it is ready to serve.  If you are serving it with meatballs, stir in the already-cooked meatballs, cook for another 1-2 minutes and serve.

No comments:

Post a Comment