Monday, February 18, 2008

Comforting Classic

Growing up, I remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom. She’s a great cook, and I learned many of my basic skills from her. One of her classics is good, Italian meat sauce. She also taught me how to make delicious meat balls. As I’ve grown, our tastes have branched off a bit. I don’t like chunks of cooked tomato in my sauce, so I only used crushed, she liked diced. Also, I like a sweeter, more concentrated sauce. For the meatballs, I’ve lightened them up a bit as well. She also doesn’t like fresh herbs, but I absolutely love fresh torn basil in my sauce. Zucchini sticks are so delicious, but they’re deep fried and not so healthy. I like to use whipped egg white and bread crumbs, then bake the sticks to get them really crispy. If you really want the crunch, try to find panko bread crumbs! Most markets carry them, they're mixed in with the asian foods, usually in a plastic bag with the noodles.
Usually my weeknight meals take no more than 30 minutes to make, but this one is closer to an hour, it just depends on how fast you can work through the ingredients. After eating this dinner tonight, JJ & I can honestly say these were the most moist, tender, and delicious meatballs we've ever had! I've made them a million times this way... but for some reason tonight they came out perfectly!
The image below is the meatballs simmering in the sauce, with the pasta being tossed in. It's very important to use a large skillet so everything can be tossed together. The pasta will really soak up the sauce when it's drained and immediately tossed in the sauce.

Spaghetti and Meatballs & Baked Zucchini Sticks with Marinara

½ lb. Barilla plus spaghetti

¾ yellow onion, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 5 oz. can Italian style tomato paste (minus 2 tbsp. for meatballs)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
5 torn fresh basil leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese

12 oz. 96% lean ground beef
¼ yellow onion, grated
1 egg white
¼ cup breadcrumbs (or more)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
Salt and pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Zucchini Sticks:
2 egg whites, whipped to a foam
1 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup Italian style bread crumbs
½ tsp. salt¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 zucchini, julienned

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Preheat a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, onions and garlic. Soften for about 5 minutes. Add seasonings, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes. Fill crushed tomatoes can half way with water, swirl the can to collect all of the tomato bits, and pour into the pan. Turn to low, cover and simmer.
Add all the meatball ingredients to a bowl, gently toss to combine. Shape into 12 balls and place on a baking sheet. Put into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Combine zucchini breading ingredients in a shallow dish. Whip egg whites in a bowl until they foam. Toss zucchini in the egg whites, then toss in the bread crumbs. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Remove meatballs from the oven, put zucchini sticks in and turn the oven up to 450 degrees. Bake for about 20 minutes, until crispy and brown.
Drop the meatballs into the simmering sauce to finish cooking.
Drop pasta in the boiling water and cook 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain, and add to the sauce. Toss to combine all ingredients. Tear basil leaves into the skillet, add parmesan and toss to combine.
Plate pasta in a shallow bowl, add zucchini sticks around the sides.
Pour extra sauce over zucchini sticks if desired.


Katie said...

The baked zuchinni sticks are SUUUCH a good idea! Totally stealing it. Thanks! :)

Kristine said...

Is it really necessary to use the words moist and meatballs in the same sentence? You know how I love that word!

MBRox said...

This was really good! I loved the baked zucchini with the panko. Talk about a comfort meal. Thanks so much for sharing all your delicious recipes! You are really talented!

kmarkners said...

I am going to have to make the zucchini sticks! My MIL makes them. But she fries them. I will be able to have them more often baked! Woo-hoo!

Beth said...

These zucchini sticks were SO good! They were a perfect side dish for baked chicken parmesan and whole wheat pasta. There are so many other recipes on your blog that I'm looking forward to trying.