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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Homemade SpaghettiO’s With Meatballs

Homemade SpaghettiO's (1)

What’s better than reliving one of your favorite childhood meals. You know the one I’m talking about, SpaghettiO’s with meatballs! Well, I’ve recreated a Homemade SpaghettiO’s With Meatballs for you and its super easy to make.

Making homemade sauce and meatballs takes this to dish to a grown-up level that will definitely surprise your guests. I’m also adding a couple of secret ingredients to the meatballs that are going to blow your mind!

Let’s start by making the meatballs and getting them into the oven before working on the sauce.

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The first secret ingredient for my meatballs is basil pesto. Normally I wouldn’t use a store-bought basil pesto however, in this instance, I’m using it as one of the ingredients for my meatballs. If you’re going to add basil pesto, to your meatballs, look for the pesto that’s kept in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, rather than the jarred pesto.

In some of my earlier posts, I’ve mentioned using basil pesto in my meatball recipes and it really elevates the flavor. When you think about it, they’re really ingredients you would most likely add to your meatball recipe.

The second secret ingredient I’m using is whole milk ricotta cheese. Ricotta doesn’t add any noticeable flavor but it definitely acts as a tenderizer.

Note:
Anytime you want to make meatballs start with the flavorings in a large mixing bowl first. You want the flavoring mixture to have the consistency of wet sand. Next, you’ll add your choice of ground meat and combine. I use a fork to slowly combine the wet flavoring mixture to the ground meat. Keep the ground meat as loose as possible, do not over mix. This will ensure you’ll have super tender meatballs.

Below are three “portion scoops” better-known as cookie/ice cream scoops. The cookie-dough scoop in the middle is equivalent to 1 1/2 tablespoons and perfect for my mini meatballs. Relatively speaking that’s half the size of a golf ball.

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Sweet Basil (2)

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Homemade SpaghettiO's (2)

Homemade SpaghettiO's (1)

 

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 2 baking sheets, lined with parchment paper, 2 6-quart saucepots, cookie scoop

Ingredients For Meatballs: Yields 48 meatballs
2 pounds ground chicken or turkey, pork, beef, or veal.
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup half-and-half, room temperature
1/4 cup water, room temperature
1/4 cup Ricotta cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup of a fresh store-bought basil pesto
5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese. (grated Parmesan cheese is fine too)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 heaping tablespoons dried parsley flakes (finely chop and use double this amount of fresh)
1 to 1 1/2 cups of  Italian bread crumbs (you want the consistency of wet sand)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Ingredients For Sauce:
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 large onion diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, basil sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese, for cooked pasta
2 packages of La Molisana pasta

Directions For Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray them both with non- stick cooking spray.
Start by placing all the flavorings for the meatballs into a large mixing bowl. When blending in the bread crumbs, start with 1 cup, add an additional 1/2 cup if needed. The finished consistency should look like (and have the texture of) wet sand.

Add in the (your choice of) ground chicken. Using a fork to combine the flavorings and meat together, do not over mix.

NOTE: If the ground meat starts to stick to the ice cream scoop, spray with a little non- stick cooking spray and the meat will release easier.

Scoop the meat mixture into your hands, roll into balls, then place the meatballs on the greased parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Each baking sheet should hold 24 meatballs. For nice golden brown meatballs, spray the tops of the meatballs with a little non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 45 minutes.

Directions For Sauce:
While the meatballs are in the oven, start the sauce. On med-high heat add the olive oil to a heavy bottom pot. Add in the onions, cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the minced garlic, Kosher salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, brown sugar, and tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes. Next, add the chicken stock. Let the stock come up to a bubble and reduce by half. Once the stock has reduced, add in the tomato products. Turn the heat down to med-low and let simmer until the meatballs come out of the oven.

After the meatballs come out of the oven, add them to the sauce. Simmer the sauce for another 45 minutes.

Cook 2 packages of the pasta according to the directions. In a large serving bowl, add the well-drained cooked pasta. Add 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and toss through. Ladle the sauce with meatballs over the pasta and toss through. Add fresh basil leaves.

Serve up table side into individual bowls. Garnish each bowl with sprigs of fresh basil. Have extra cheese on hand for your guests.

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Italian Wedding Soup Two Ways


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The name Italian Wedding Soup stemmed from the combining of meat with pasta. Growing up, in my home, pasta was served separately from the meat dish.

This post will show you everything you need to know on how I make this soup. My secret ingredient, for the most flavorful meatballs, is basil pesto. Surprised!, don’t be, when you break down the ingredients in basil pesto, you’ll find that most of those ingredients are in my meatballs anyway.

I have done variations of my Italian Wedding Soup like, instead of small pasta, I’ve used mini cheese ravioli. It’s really delicious way to give an extra surprise to the dish.

I think whenever your making a recipe that calls for meatballs, it’s important that they are tender and full of flavor.

My basic recipe for meatballs  is always the same, whether using ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken. The exceptions are when I make a Greek or Asian dish that call for meatballs. That’s a story for another time.

I’m going to show you two versions. One made  with a short cut pasta called Ditalini, the other with mini cheese ravioli.

What’s great about making extra is, you can freeze the soup for another time. First label and date the bags. Whenever I freeze a completed soup, I let it come to room temperature, transfer the soup into tight fitting zip lock bags. Release all the air possible, then close the bag. Lay the bag out onto a sheet pan in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the sheet pan and you can stack the bags of soup.

I’m also making a double batch of meatball to show both versions of my Italian Wedding Soup. This recipe yields 30 meatballs. If you’re going to use half of meatballs, let them come to room temperature. Next, place them in the frig for 30 minutes to chill. Label and date the zip lock freezer bag transfer them to the bag, releasing as much of the air as possible, close it up and place into the freezer.

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The one thing that’s important when making meatballs, is to mix all the flavoring first.  Once all the flavor ingredients are placed into a bowl, mix to combine. This mixture should have the consistency of wet sand.  Then I’ll add in the ground meat. I’ll also use a fork in order to combine the flavorings with the meat. This keeps the meat light and tender. Taking a fork to combine the ingredients, takes a few minutes longer but it’s well worth it. Your meatballs will be light and tender.

I line two  baking sheets with parchment paper and allow a little space between the meatballs for even cooking. I spray the tops with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray to help them brown evenly. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

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While the meatballs are cooking in the oven, I utilize this time for chopping all my veggies. To start, I have two heavy bottom soup pots on the stove set on medium heat. All my veggies ready to go. It’s the standard Mirepoix, onions celery, and carrots, along with some minced garlic. To each pot I’ve added some olive oil. I throw in the onions first to start them softening.

Once they’ve started to soften I add in all the other veggies. At this point I season with salt and pepper. I let everything sauté for about 5-7 minutes before adding in the low sodium chicken stock. I’m using chicken stock, instead of broth, for a deeper chicken flavor. I’ve  also kept the rind from the grated cheese that I added earlier into the meatballs. It’s great to throw them into soups and stews for depth of flavor. To both pots, I add in the chicken stock. I bring them up to a bubble, then reduce to a simmer.

Now it’s time the meatballs come out of the oven. Carefully, add half the meatballs (15) to each pot. Let this simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Next, add the pasta, mini Ravioli to one pot, and Ditalini to the other.

Give each pot a big stir. The pasta will start to float when it cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Lastly, I add one package of the thawed frozen spinach, that’s been squeezed really well of any excess water, to each pot and stir it around gently. Turn the heat off and cover until your ready to serve.

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 375 degrees F. for meatballs 30-35 minutes
Cook Time: 50-60 minutes
Total Time: 1hour 20 minutes
Yields: 30 meatballs
Note: If only making one pot, use 1 1/2 pounds of ground chicken (15 meatballs) otherwise freeze the other 15 meatballs.

Ingredients: For Meatballs
3 pounds of ground chicken
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of fresh basil pesto ( in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, next to the fresh pasta)
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
3 cloves of freshly grated garlic
2 tablespoons of Ketchup
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano- Reggiano)
2 cups of Italian bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup of freshly chopped Italian parsley

Ingredients for soup:
Note: cut recipe in half, for one pot of soup,  with the exception of the pasta. Choose which pasta you want to use. Use only 1-1/2 pounds of ground chicken for 15 meatballs.
4 tablespoons olive oil ( 2 per pot)
2 cups of diced onions
2 cups of diced carrots
2 cups of diced celery
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 quarts plus 4 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2 cups of Ditalini pasta ( short cut tube shaped pasta in one pot)
1-24 ounce package of mini cheese ravioli ( in the other pot)
2 packages of thawed frozen spinach

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Start with a large bowl and add all the ingredients for the flavorings for the meatballs. Once everything is in the bowl mix well. You want the flavorings to have the consistency of wet sand. Next, add the ground meat to the bowl. Using a fork, mix the flavorings through the ground chicken. It may take a few minutes but your meatballs with be light and tender. Using a small ice cream scoop so meat mixture into your hand. This will ensure the meatballs will all be the size of golfballs.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay the meatballs on the baking sheet with space between each one. Lightly spray the top of the meatballs with non-stick cooking spray to ensure they will brown nicely. Place the meatballs in the oven.

While they are cooking, dice all the veggies and mince the garlic. On medium heat, prepare your pot(s) with the olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes. Add the diced onions in. Let them start to soften before adding in the rest of the veggies. Give all the veggies and garlic a big stir and add the Kosher salt and black pepper. Let sauté for 5-7 minutes. Next, add the liquid. If you have the cheese rind, leftover from grating the cheese, go ahead and throw that into your pot(s).  Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce it to a simmer.

At this point, the meatballs will be ready to come out of the oven. Add the meatballs to the pot(s) very carefully. Let them simmer on med-low for another 15 minutes. Now it’s time to add the pasta. Throw in your pasta of choice, or both if you’re making two pots like I have. Carefully give the pasta a big stir. Let this cook for another 8-10 minutes. Once the pasta floats to the top, it’s time to add in the drained thawed frozen spinach. Again, carefully give the spinach a good stir to incorporate it through the soup. Turn the heat off and cover until your ready to serve.

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Pappardelle With Chicken Sausage Meatballs

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Thanks to my mom and grandmother, I’ve learned so much about the art of making great meatballs. The one important thing that they both told me was not to overwork the meat when adding in the flavorings. Well, keeping that in mind, I went one better. I came to the conclusion, that if you mix all the wet ingredients along with the spices first, then add in the meat, there was less likelihood of over mixing. This is my Pappardelle With Chicken Sausage Meatballs. 

Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

Sweet Basil (2)

fresh basil

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Prep Time: 30 minutes (time includes making the meatballs and dicing the onions and garlic for the sauce)
Cook Time For Meatballs: 25 minutes
Cook Time For Tomato Sauce: 45 minutes
Yields: 22 golf-size meatballs
Equipment: 2 rimmed baking sheet pans lined with parchment paper, large 6-quart Dutch oven,6-quart saucepot,  2 large mixing bowls, colander, cookie-dough scoop, olive oil cooking spray

Ingredients For Meatballs:
olive oil cooking spray
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound of ground chicken
1/4 cup of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup of fresh basil pesto (store-bought fresh pesto can be found in the refrigerated section where you find the fresh pasta and sauces)
1/4 cup of  Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 cup of plain Panko bread crumbs
1/2 a cup of seasoned Italian bread crumbs
3 cloves of garlic, freshly grated
2 large eggs, beaten
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup of Ricotta cheese, room temperature
1 cup of half-and-half (start with 3/4 cup until you get the consistency of wet sand)

Ingredients For Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 diced onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 cup of unsalted chicken broth
1 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole tomatoes
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the pasta (reserve some for garnish)
1/4 cup of fresh basil, julienned

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
Start in a large mixing bowl, by adding all the ingredients that will flavor the meat, mix to combine. The mixture needs to have the consistency of wet sand as shown in the above picture.

In another large mixing bowl, containing the ground chicken (a mixture of dark and white meat) and sweet Italian sausage add the flavoring mixture. Use a fork to evenly distribute the flavoring mixture throughout the meat. It does take a minute, but it will ensure there’s no chance the meat will become compacted compared to if you were to use your hands to combine the ingredients.

To ensure the meatballs are the same size use a large cookie-dough scoop as seen in the above picture. This yielded about 22 golf-size ball meatballs. On two rimmed baking sheet pans lined with parchment paper lightly spray olive oil cooking spray. Scoop out the meatball mixture and roll them into golf-size meatballs. Arrange the meatballs at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Spray the tops of the meatballs with a little of the olive oil cooking spray to ensure they brown nicely. Bake for 25 minutes.

Tip: Use the cooking spray, (a light spritz) to lubricate the cookie-dough scoop every so often. This will ensure the easy release of the meat mixture.

In the meantime in a large saucepot over medium heat, add olive oil and diced onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.  To the onions, add the minced garlic, tomato paste, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Continue stirring, cook for another 1 to 2 minutes

Next, add the chicken broth. Let that come up to a bubble and simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the crushed and whole tomatoes. Using the back of a wooden spoon break up the whole tomatoes. Next, add brown sugar, stir to combine. Bring the sauce up to a bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Once the meatballs come out of the oven, transfer them to the sauce and let everything simmer together on medium-low heat for another 45 minutes. Remove from the heat add the fresh julienned basil, gently stir to combine. Cover to keep warm. After 45 minutes, start cooking the pasta.

In a large saucepot of boiling salted water drop the pasta.

I love to use Pappardelle for this dish. The wide ribbons of pasta have so much more surface area for the sauce to adhere to. Follow the cooking instructions. Drain the pasta really well.  Add a cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the bottom of a large mixing bowl tossing the cheese through the pasta, very gently, so all those ribbons get coated really well. Then add a couple of ladles full of the tomato sauce, using a pair of tongs toss to combine. What you are witnessing is the cheese sticking to the pasta and the sauce sticks to the cheese. Win-Win!

Finally, I finish with ladling the meatballs on top with a bit more sauce, and a little more cheese. Serve with some crusty cheese bread and garnish with fresh basil. This is my Pappardelle With Chicken Sausage Meatballs.

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