Spaghetti and polpette on their own have a long history in Italian cuisine, together however, you get an American-Italian dish which is quite uncommonly found in Italy itself. Nonetheless, on a cold Winter's night when you're looking for something comforting and packed full of flavour, these Spaghetti con polpette or spaghetti and meatballs do not disappoint. It's worth getting your mince from a butcher, as they tend to make it fresh and with cuts of meat that give you maximum flavour! Even though this makes enough for many, I often just use a small portion of the sauce and meatballs and reserve the rest for other meals.
FOR THE POLPETTE
100g stale or day-old bread
500g pork mince
500g veal or beef mince
1tsp dried chilli flakes
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1tbsp each of Italian parsley and rosemary, roughly chopped
50g parmesan, finely grated
1 egg yolk
50g flat pancetta, finely chopped
60g pine nuts, toasted
FOR THE SUGO
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 parsley stalks, finely chopped
1.4L tomato Passata
80ml balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
Spaghetti cooked in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente (approx 100g per person)
Handful of basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Shaved parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. For the polpette, soak the bread in some warm water until soft (1-2 minutes). Squeeze excess water out and blitz bread in a food processor to create rough breadcrumbs. Add these and all other ingredients to a large bowl. Add salt and pepper and mix thoroughly with your hands until well combined. Roll mixture into balls.
3. Heat a large frypan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Cook the meatballs in batches until golden on both sides. Set aside.
4. For the sugo, heat a large oven-proof pot over a medium heat. Add 1tbsp of olive oil and sautè the onion, garlic and parsley stalks until softened and translucent. Pour in the passata and balsamic vinegar and add the bay leaves. I also, at this point fill the passata jars with a little water, give them a shake and pour this into the sauce. This gives the sauce the consistency it needs as well as using up all of the passata.
5. Bring sugo to the boil and gently add the meatballs. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid or tin foil and cook in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes-1 hour or until meatballs are cooked and sauce has slightly reduced and thickened. Season to taste.
6. While your pasta is cooking, I normally return the pot to the stove to thicken a little more. If there is too much sauce for the amount of pasta you have cooked, you can transfer what you need to a large pan and keep warm on a low heat. Once your pasta is ready, drain and add to the pan with the sauce and meatballs. If too thick, add a little of the pasta water. Stir through the basil leaves, drizzle over some olive oil, top with shaved parmesan and serve.
If you haven't used all of the sauce and meatballs, store in an airtight container in the fridge or in the freezer for another meal.