Between tender ground pork, tangy sauce and soul-soothing pasta, spaghetti and meatballs is a comfort food dish that will never go out of style. And while it is usually relegated to Sunday suppers, it is possible to bring the Italian-American classic into weeknight territory.
First, the meatballs. Most recipes call for carefully frying oversized rounds of ground meat, spices, bread and milk before simmering in sauce for upwards of an hour. Yet by being smart about your ingredient choice, you don’t need more than three — spice-filled Italian sausage, breadcrumbs and grated onion, for both moisture and flavor — to make a fine meatball. You also really don’t need more than a hard sear on two sides in order for the meatballs to hold together, and if you make them the size of a walnut, they don’t need more than 15 minutes to cook through.
Second, the sauce. Tomato sauce does, of course, take some substantial simmering time to turn from bright to umami-rich. To get around this problem, do not use whole canned tomatoes (or sugar- and preservative-filled jarred marinara sauce). Instead, use either canned tomato puree or salt-free tomato sauce. These products are cooked before being canned, so they don’t need much time on the stove in order to taste like they’ve been simmering for an hour. The only downside? They can come off as somewhat gloppy, so you’ll want to thin out the sauce with some of the pasta cooking liquid. Easy fix.
The meatballs can be seared and finished in the sauce in the same time it takes to cook a pound of spaghetti, which means the last trick is simply to multitask a bit. Mind the boiling pasta while you give the sauce a few stirs, and assemble a baby kale salad (if you’d like) when your hands are free. All that’s left is to decide if you want to cheat (just a bit) and add in a bonus ingredient: freshly grated Parmesan for serving.
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