December 4, 2012 by Jason Rice MD
I suppose this is my take on spaghetti and meatballs. First off, you’ll notice that I list meatballs first. Let’s face it, no one is pushing their meatballs out of the way to get to their pasta, so the dish might as well be named after the star. Second, I chose to make this with rotini because it’s a lot easier to eat, especially for the kiddos. I also pack a lot of veggie punch into the sauce and the meatballs. Pasta dishes are a great vehicle to pack with vegetables. I feel they add a great deal of depth and freshness to what can often be very one-note dishes. As always, I made every effort to document this dish as I prepared it, but please adjust and tweak as needed. Any number of veggies can be added or substituted. I went with spinach and mushrooms tonight, but zucchini, eggplant and asparagus are also great choices. So, here it is:
- 1 box of rotini
- 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (I like something simple and bright like a marinara or a basil)
- 1 lb of ground beef
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 whole egg
- About 1/4 cup of unseasoned bread crumbs
- 1-2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce (yeah, I use this stuff a LOT)
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 8 oz mushrooms (baby bella or white), quartered
- 1 bag of baby spinach
- grated parmesan cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
Start boiling a pot of water for the pasta while you’re working on the meatball prep. Keep an eye on the water, and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package once the water boils. Additionally, start preheating your oven to 375 for the meatballs.
Place the meat into a large mixing bowl and add the worchestershire sauce, black pepper and about 2/3 of the minced garlic. Add the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. I didn’t measure these, but my best guess is about a quarter cup of each. I usually do the bread crumbs and cheese by feel, and I dust the meat mixture – the photo below shows about how much I used. Last, finely chop about a handful of the baby spinach. Add the chopped spinach, the egg and a drizzle of olive oil to the bowl.
Gently work the meatball mixture together. Form the meatballs to the size of your choice and remember not to pack the meat too tightly. I like to make mine about golf ball size as I have found this to be big enough to stay juicy and small enough to cook relatively quickly.
If you have an oven safe skillet (preferably cast iron), heat it up on your stovetop over a medium high flame and place your meatballs in the hot skillet to get a little crust on one side (only takes a minute or two). Then place the skillet into the oven for about 20-25 minutes depending on the size of your meatballs. If you don’t have a skillet or want to skip this step, just arrange the meatballs on a cookie sheet and bake as above.
While the meatballs are baking, put some olive oil into a saute pan or a pot that will be large enough to hold the mushrooms, spinach and pasta sauce. Saute the mushrooms and the remaining garlic until the mushrooms are tender. Add the spinach and saute for another minute or two to wilt the spinach. Add the pasta sauce and simmer until ready to serve. Check your meatballs periodically, and when they’re browned and delicious looking, pull them out.
I like to serve my pasta in a shallow bowl to contain the sauce, and it’s always great to have some extra grated parmesan on the table to sprinkle on top. So, that’s my take on the classic pasta and meatballs. Enjoy!