Making meals for a family means catering to a variety of preferences. Chef and father of five, Dean McDermott offers an array of adult- and kid-friendly recipes in his new book The Gourmet Dad (Harlequin, 2015). This easy-to-use meal guide offers more than 100 recipes. The following recipe for spaghetti and meatballs adds extra flavor to an already yummy meal.
A recipe doesn’t have to be complicated to be truly great, as this dish proves. I can’t tell you how much I loved this meal growing up. Everyone in the family loved my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. She would mix in crushed crackers to stretch the meat, but I do it to add a little texture and help the meatballs hold together better. Also, the crackers enable the meatballs to soak up sauce and flavor. I also use both pork and beef in my version, which creates an incredible texture and mix of flavors. The meatballs won’t mind, and they’ll stand up to just about any red sauce you might want to use.
Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 celery stalks, minced
• 2 carrots, peeled and minced
• 1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
• 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
• 1 pound ground pork
• 1 pound ground beef
• 2 cups finely crushed saltine crackers
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 teaspoons for garnish
• 1/4 cup finely grated fontina
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 4 cups jarred sauce
• 1-1/2 cups beef stock
• 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots, onions and garlic to the pan and sauté until tender. Set aside and let cool.
3. In a large bowl, combine the vegetable mixture, the pork, beef, crackers, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fontina, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overwork the mixture. (Overworking could result in dry and tough meatballs.)
4. Form 2-inch meatballs from the meat mixture with an ice-cream scoop. Space the meatballs out evenly on a baking sheet. Bake, turning once midway through cooking, until golden brown, about 10 minutes per side.
5. Transfer the browned meatballs to a stockpot. Add the tomato sauce and the beef stock, and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer, allowing the meatballs to cook through, for about 15 minutes. Serve over the spaghetti and garnish with the remaining 2 teaspoons Parmigiano-Reggiano.
For the Kiddos
If you want to fill your kitchen with extra helpings of giggles, just get your children involved in making meatballs. My kids smush all the ingredients together with their hands, which they think is the funniest thing. Just don’t allow them to over-knead the meat mixture, or the meatballs become tough. I also give my kids a melon baller to make the meatballs bite-size, and sometimes we put them on skewers before cooking. And even though kids love slurping spaghetti with their meatballs, you can throw together meatball sammies made with mini dinner rolls or slider buns. Slather them up with sauce, melt a little cheese over the top and watch them disappear. Just be sure to buy a lot of napkins!
More from The Gourmet Dad:
Recipe reprinted with permission from The Gourmet Dad: Easy and Delicious Meals the Whole Family Will Love by Dean McDermott and published by Harlequin Nonfiction, 2015.