Who doesn’t love spaghetti and meatballs?  It’s the quintessential comfort food.  Normally, it’s a no fuss, no muss dish you just make with dried pasta, jarred sauce and maybe some homemade meatballs.  That’s not how I roll.  We’re making not only the meatballs, but also the sauce and also the pasta.  Yes, time to make the pasta! 

This is a large quantity recipe because it’s what I cooked for my first post-pandemic family meal on Easter 2021! This fed 5 people, twice.  So, just keep that in mind.

Here’s the list of ingredients:

Pasta:

• 2 cups pasta flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill pasta flour, any flour will do really)

• 3 eggs, beaten

• 1 tsp water

• 1 Tbsp olive oil

Sauce:

• 1 34Oz can crushed tomatoes

• 1-2 tsp sugar*

• ½ cup red wine

• 2 Tbsp fresh basil

• 1 Tbsp dried oregano

• 1 onion, sliced

• 6 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 bay leaves

• 2 Tsp tomato paste

• Salt and pepper to taste

Meatballs:

• 1 lb. ground bison

• 1 lb. ground lamb

• ½ onion, minced

• 4 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 Tbsp fresh basil chopped fine

• 1 Tbsp parsley chopped fine

• 1-2 eggs (depending on size)

• ¼ cup while milk

• ¼ – ½ cup bread crumbs

• ¼ cup finely grated parmesan

* Only add if needed

Let’s get started on the pasta.  I made it a day ahead of time and put it in a Ziplock bag in the fridge for the next day.  You can also make it, portion it our and freeze it.  Believe me when I say that this is going to make a lot of pasta.

Now, I cheat, a lot.  I use my stand mixer to do everything. I don’t have the arms to go kneading dough for 10 minutes straight.  So, first thing’s first.  Put the flour in the bowl of the stand mixer and make a well in the flour.  Crack the eggs in a bowl and beat the, then out them in the well you made in the flour.  Take a fork and start mixing the eggs into the flour, pulling flour from the sides.  Do this until all of the flour has been incorporated. Once it is all combine, put the dough hook on the attachment and run on high for 10 minutes.  

When it is done, take out of the bowl and knead a little bit more until it forms a ball (of sorts).  Hopefully, it’ looks better than my ball.

Yea, it ain’t pretty.  Take your pasta ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.  Throw it in the fridge for at least an hour, if not longer.  If possible, let it go overnight.  This helps the gluten relax and makes it easier to stretch it out and make the noodle. DO NOT skip this step!  Once your pasta has adequately rested, take it out and make sure it is not moist.  Now here’s where the customization can get crazy. You can roll it out and then cut it into fat ribbons like pappardelle.  You can roll it out into sheet and make ravioli with it (stay tuned for that recipe..).  Today, we’re going basic and making good old spaghetti.  This is something you will definitely want some sort of pasta machine for.  So, if you have the stand mixer attachments, use those.  If you have a hand crank one, go for that!  Like I said before, I cheat and I have a pasta extruder attachment.  BUT, if you’re using the roller attachments for the stand mixer, roll it out on 1(on high speed), fold it, and roll it again on 1, then go down each number until you hit 5.  You don’t want the sheet to be too thin or your noodles will stick.  Run each sheet through the cutter attachment and hang on a past rack to dry for a few minutes.

Remember, fresh pasta takes no time to cook.  This takes around 2-3 minutes on a gentle boil. You do not want the water on high heat.  A nice, gentle boil will do.  But before we get to cooking the pasta, we’ve got some other things that need to be made.

As you have probably seen in previous recipes, I like to buck tradition.  This recipe is no different.  I use a lamb/bison mixture for this recipe, although normally I do lamb and veal.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Now, in a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Mix them by hand until everything just comes together.  I don’t like huge meatballs, so mine were a size slightly larger than a golfball.  If you make them this size, you’ll get around 35-37 of them.  

Put a cast iron skillet on medium high heat and add some canola oil to the pan.  When the pan is hot, start browning the meatballs on all sides.  You will have to do this in batches as you do not want to crowd the pan.  Too many meatballs in the pan means steaming, and that’s gross.  You want that nice dark brown caramelization.  That’s maximum flavor right there!  Once all of the meatballs have browned, put them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  

While they are baking, it’s time to make the sauce.  Put a large saucepan on medium heat.  Add olive oil and let it come up to temperature.  Once it’s done, add the onions.  Salt them a little and let them cook until translucent.  Add the garlic and the oregano and bay leave.  Wait, add the dry spice now?  Yes, because when it hits the hot oil, it’ll extract more of the flavor. Cook this all together for about 30 second to a minute.  Throw the tomato paste in and mix into the onions and garlic, let cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add the red wine.  Let the wine reduce by half.  Now it’s time to add the tomatoes.  Let tomatoes get to temperature then drop to medium low and cover.    Let this simmer as the meatballs finish cooking in the oven.  Taste the sauce.  If it is too acidic, add the sugar. This will help balance it out.  Once the meatballs have finished cooking in the oven, add them and the drippings to the sauce and let them cook together for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.  Add the fresh basil at the very end.

After the sauce and meatballs have gone for at least an hour, it’s pasta time.  Now get that water boiling and make sure to salt it fairly heavily.  Once it’s up to a gentle boil, add the pasta. This will only take 2-3 minutes.  I cannot stress enough just how fast fresh pasta cooks.  It’s very easy to overcook.  When it’s done, plate it up,  top with sauce and a meatball or 3, and enjoy

NOW, I know, this is usually where the finished dish picture is.  Here’s the thing, it was Easter Sunday, I was tired and hungry after cooking, and I was too busy hanging with my family for the first time since COVID hit while stuffing my fat face for the millionth time since COVID hit.  I’m sorry, but also not sorry.  See you next week!

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Jay Flanders

Jay Flanders is a native of Newport and avid cook. While he studied at the University of Rhode Island, he also attended the College of Food Network via his television set where he learned the basics of cooking. Also being an all-too-avid eater at restaurants, he really began to learn what ingredients went together, cooking techniques and other tips and tricks in the kitchen. He used that knowledge to teach himself how to cook and how to start making his own recipes. Now, he’s here to give you his tips, tricks and sometimes uniquely tasty spins on recipes and to show you that great cooking can be done is the tiniest of kitchens like his.