Spaghetti and Meatballs

So sticking with this year’s resolution to involve my children in meal preparation, I asked them what they would like to learn to make first. My daughter quickly responded with spaghetti and meatballs. Now personally I was hoping for something a little bit simpler, but I wasn’t afraid of the challenge. There was time to plan. and this wasn’t dinner for that evening which was good.

You will want some time to prepare this meal. Dinner time can be tough because of time issues and activities as well as hunger. We reviewed some recipes, discussed the ingredients and made the shopping list. Fortunately this time I was able to do the shopping on my own and remembered my list. (Next time it is their turn to shop for the ingredients.)

When I think of spaghetti and meatballs, I can’t help but romantically think about the animated film, “The Lady and the Tramp.” Now I can’t say that the experience of cooking and eating with my family of five was quite the same, but we were pleased with the overall turnout.

Ways to involve the children in food preparation:

• Help with the tomatoes and homemade bread crumbs in the food processor

• Form meatballs with melon baller and hands

• Rather than mince garlic, I had the kids use the garlic press

• To grate the cheese, the kids can use a rotary grater for safety. We used our salad shooter with the grating attachment.

• Cracking and separating the egg – though this took quite some “supervision”

• Measure and pour ingredients

• Sprinkle cheese on top – the most fun according to the kids

For shortcuts or personal preference, you CAN use jarred sauce – no guilt! We used 2 – 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes in place for the whole tomatoes. In this instance, we used wheat bread for the breadcrumbs as well as wheat spaghetti noodles. For the ground sirloin, we used 92% lean ground beef. Serve with bread and a salad, but we served baby carrots and Ranch dressing on this occasion.

The Recipe

Adapted from Lydia Matticchio Bastianich’s recipe, Cooking Light Magazine, October 2003

Sauce:

• 5 (14.5 oz.) cans no salt-added whole tomatoes, undrained

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 cup chopped onion

• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

• ¾ teaspoon salt

• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 2 bay leaves

Meatballs:

• 1  slice of bread

• 1 ½ ounces (1/3 cup) grated Parmesan cheese

• ¼ milk

• ¼ chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (or 4 teaspoons dried)

• ½ teaspoon salt

• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1 pound ground sirloin

• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

• 1 large egg white

Other ingredients:

• Cooking spray

• 1 ½ ounces (1/3 cup) Parmesan cheese

• 1 pound uncooked spaghetti

Preparation

To prepare sauce, place half of the tomatoes in a food processor, and process until smooth. Pour pureed tomatoes into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining tomatoes.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; cook 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in pureed tomatoes, red pepper, salt, black pepper, and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Discard bay leaves. Keep warm.

For the meatballs, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure ½ cup. Combine breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup cheese, and the next 7 ingredients – cheese through the egg white. Shape mixture into 24 (1 inch) meatballs, place on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Bake the meatballs at 400 degrees for 15 minutes (or until cooked through). Add the meatballs to sauce; cook over low heat 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta and return to pot. Spoon about 2 cups of tomato sauce into the pasta, tossing well to coat. Transfer pasta mixture to a platter; top with remaining sauce and meatballs. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of cheese.