Sunday, July 01, 2007

Italian Bribery

My brother and sister-in-law have yet to find a replacement babysitter since I moved away from the Bay Area 3 years ago. Unfortunately, this presented us with a one to watch the kids last night so all the adults could go into the city for a fancy, foodie birthday dinner for my dad.

Last minute, we had to volunteers from my sister-in-law's office who had no trouble watching the kids. So now the issue was - what can we make for dinner that is excellent and gourmet (without too much work) so that our new babysitters aren't stuck with pizza or fish sticks (not that we would serve either).

So I decided to go for something Italian - meatballs! And so my somewhat picky-eater of a niece would go for it...stuff them with cheese!! Maggie will eat just about anything is cheese is involved. So I whipped up a double batch (so those of us eating out could have it for lunch the next day, of course), and left it simmering on the stove. What a success - and so easy too!

Spaghetti with Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs
Serves 4

1/4 Cup breadcrumbs, plain
1/2 Cup milk, skim
1 Tablespoon oil, extra virgin olive
3 Cloves garlic, fresh minced
56 Ounce(wt)s tomatoes, crushed (fire-roasted if available)
1 Tablespoon oregano, dried
1 Tablespoon basil, dried
1 to taste salt
1 Pound beef, sirloin, ground (ground chuck works too)
2 Tablespoons parsley, flat-leaf chopped
1/2 Cup cheese, parmesan, grated plus more for serving
1 Large egg, whole
4 Ounce(wt)s cheese, mozzarella (part skim) cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Pound pasta, spaghettini

In a medium bowl, soak the bread crumbs in the milk.

In a large, wide saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano and basil and season to taste with salt and let the sauce simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Add the beef, chopped garlic, parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano, egg and 1 teaspoon of salt to the soaked bread crumbs and stir with a fork until combined. Place about 2 tablespoons of the mixture in your hand and press a mozzarella cube into the center. Shape the meat around the cheese, forming a ball. Repeat with the remaining meat and mozzarella.

Stir the sauce and raise the heat to medium- low. Carefully place the meatballs in the sauce, submerging them completely. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook without stirring for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti, cook until al dente, about 8 minutes, and drain. Toss the spaghetti with the tomato sauce and meatballs, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.