Spaghetti and meatballs recipe

Celebrity chef Gino D'acampo shares a classic that is a hit with his daughter Mia

This is one of my daughter Mia’s favourite recipes, not only to eat but to make. Often you will find us on a Sunday morning preparing this dish together; I have to say it is my favourite time of the week when that happens.

The meatballs will be the best you have ever tasted and the secret is definitely the bread soaked in milk, it makes them so tender. I have suggested serving these with pasta, but it also works well with rice, or in a panini. 

Ingredients: 

Serves 4

For the meatballs

• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 5 slices of white or brown bread, crusts discarded
• 200ml milk (whatever you have in the fridge is fine) 
• 500g minced pork 
• 250g minced beef 
• 2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
• 1 large garlic clove, crushed
• 70g pecorino cheese, finely grated 
• 1 egg
• 500g fresh egg tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta
• fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

• 6 tbsp olive oil
• 1 large garlic clove, crushed
• 3 x 400g cans of 
chopped tomatoes 
• 8 large basil leaves, torn in half
• 2 mozzarella balls (125g each), drained, cut into small cubes and refrigerated

Method:

1. Take a medium flat tray and pour in the olive oil. Using your fingertips, spread the oil all over the tray and set aside.

2. Break the bread into a large bowl and pour over the milk. Using your fingertips, mix the bread and milk together, to make a wet paste. Add the minced meats and combine. Now add the parsley, garlic, pecorino, 2 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper, crack in the egg and use your hand to mix it all together.

3. Divide into 10 large meatballs, rolling between your palms for 30–40 seconds to become compact. Gently place on the prepared tray. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes (you can leave them overnight if you wish).

4. Now for the sauce. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Place in 8 meatballs and fry for 15 minutes, gently turning regularly using 2 tablespoons, ensuring they are browned all over (set aside the remaining 2 meatballs for the sauce). Switch off the heat and gently transfer the cooked meatballs one by one to a large plate, leaving the oil and juices in the saucepan.

5. Place the same saucepan back over a medium heat and add the remaining 2 raw meatballs. Add the crushed garlic, and, using a wooden spoon, break the meatballs into small pieces and fry in the sizzling oil for 4 minutes. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, torn basil leaves, 2 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper.  Fill one can with hot water and pour it into the saucepan. Stir, then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure you scrape the base of the pan for any caramelised bits.

6. Reduce the heat to a minimum and carefully place the whole meatballs in the sauce, pouring in any juices left on the plate. Gently stir, making sure the meatballs are completely covered in sauce. Cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, always gently, so you don’t break the meatballs. Switch off the heat.

7. Fill a large saucepan with 4 litres of water and 
1 tbsp salt and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, normally 1 minute less than instructed on the packet. Meanwhile, carefully remove the meatballs from the sauce and keep warm (if serving with rice, you don’t need to remove the meatballs, you can just spoon them on the rice).

8. Drain the pasta and tip into the sauce. Stir for about 20 seconds, ensuring the pasta is well coated. Divide the pasta and meatballs between 4 warmed plates, with the sauce, and sprinkle over the mozzarella. Enjoy!

Extracted from Gino’s Italian Family Adventure: Easy Recipes the Whole Family will Love by Gino D’Acampo (published by Bloomsbury) on 28th October £22 hbk. Photography credit Haarala Hamilton

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