Spaghetti & Meatballs - Sopranos Style
by Georgina Ingham
What could be better on a cold wintery evening than a big steaming bowl of pasta? The ultimate in Italian comfort food, surely? Add in a few spicy meatballs and it becomes the perfect Italian-American supper.
I usually go for Nigella’s recipe for pasta & meatballs from Nigella Bites, but the other night I felt like a change – opting instead for an adapted version of a recipe from The Sopranos Family Cookbook (which I’ve yet to add to my collection, hint hint, wink wink Santa).
This dish is not hard to make, but all that mixing and rolling and sauteing is a time-consuming process. And it’s mainly “active time,” as the magazines would say. Not that, that’s a bad thing – some days are meant for pottering round the kitchen and the cold, wet, dank weeks of winter have ‘kitchen’ days aplenty.
I used dried spaghetti, I could of course make my own pasta, but it just wasn’t that kind of day.
Pasta is a very healthy product ,especially the top quality pasta made with hard durum wheat flour and air dried in the traditional way. Unlike some of the cheap and cheerful pastas available in some supermarkets which are made with cheaper flours and forced dried. Its the same old story One gets what one pays for!
So where do most people go wrong when cooking pasta, its such a simple and fast dish but you do need to follow some basic rules .
- You need at least 4 litres of water for every 500 grams of pasta ,so use a large pan enough to hold both the water and the pasta ,
- When the water has boiled and not before, add salt (about a tablespoon).
- Next add the pasta, dried spaghetti and other long shaped pasta has to be held until it has softened in the hot water and can be bent round to fit the pan.
- When the pasta is in the pan, give it a stir to prevent it from sticking .
- There is no need to add olive oil to the water to stop the pasta sticking as long as you use a large enough pan and plenty of water.
- Cook the pasta unti it is al dente – al dente means to the teeth , or more correctly in this context firm to the bite, very slighty resistant.
- Most packets of Pasta have a cooking time shown , take this as a guild only as diffferent shapes take different times, therefore taste the pasta about half way through the recomended cooking time and continue to do so at regular intervals until it is cooked.
- The best way to add your sauce is after you have drained the pasta into your colendar pour the pasta back into the now drained but still warm pan and add your sauce to the pasta and stir as required before serving onto warmed plates
A few key meatball tips:
- Keep the meatballs refrigerated until the very moment you cook them as this helps them retain their shape. If you make them fresh, refrigerate for at least an hour before cooking.
- Dust them in flour before browning.
- Eschew the tongs! Instead, turn the precious meatballs carefully with a couple of spoons.