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Kitchen Stories: Pasketti and the Exploration of Comfort

February 28, 2011

The idea of comfort food is ubiquitous.  It’s not new, but it does come in and out of favor.  It’s always in favor in our house.  Comfort food is what I make, typically.  Roasts, things with crusts, heavy, rich, flavorful and filling…it’s what makes the house smell lovely and warm.  My wonderful sister gave me a splendid gift of one of Ina Garten’s cookbooks and I immediately zeroed in on a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs.  As a kid, I couldn’t pronounce “spaghetti”…I think many children have trouble with the word, and we hear it enough since it’s one of the foods we tuck into early on.  I called it pasketti.  Even more reason to start with this recipe from the book I received from my sister.  As you’ll see from the recipe, they are not your average meatballs: they are baked, rather than fried.  And they have turkey, and sausage and prosciutto; and a great kick from crushed red pepper flakes.  So while we’ve got a classic comfort idea, a little time travel back to childhood pasta, these are very adult meatballs.  I think that makes great comfort food – not only does it take you back to a memory or feeling of something lovely, but they are strong enough at their base that they can withstand some twists and turns.  It’s a little like a strong, loving relationships: the comfort is there: the basis, the memory, the feeling is there; and even as life tosses changes, bitterness, sweet surprises, and cheesy bits at you, the solidity of that comfort abides.   So here is Ina’s remarkable recipe. May it bring you comfort and pleasant pasketti memories.

Spicy Turkey Meatballs & Spaghetti

By Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?

Serves 8

3 cups (1-inch diced) bread cubes from a round rustic bread, crusts removed

2/3 cup whole milk

2 pounds ground turkey (85% to 92% lean)

½ pound sweet Italian pork sausage, casings removed

4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped

1 cup freshly grated aged Asiago cheese

½ cup minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for brushing the meatballs

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

3 (24-ounce) jars good marinara sauce, such as Rao’s

2 pounds dried spaghetti, such as De Cecco

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

Place the bread in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until the bread is in medium crumbs.  Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl and add the milk.  Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, sausage, prosciutto, bread mixture, Asiago, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper.  Lightly combine the ingredients with your hands. Add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the eggs, and stir lightly with a fork to combine.

With your hands, lightly roll the mixture into 2-inch-round meatballs and place them on the prepared sheet pans.  Brush the meatballs with olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the tops are browned and the centers are completely cooked.

Pour the marinara sauce in a large, low pot, add the meatballs, and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the directions on the package.  Drain and place the spaghetti in individual bowls, and top with 3 meatballs and lots of sauce. Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side.

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From → Kitchen Stories

3 Comments
  1. Question:
    How do you keep your meatballs from getting flat on the bottom? Do you turn them, or accept their dent?

    Just made homemade pasta with a lobster clam sauce. Not quite kid food, but Benj scarfed it down pretty well all the same.

    • I just accepted the dent. They are 2″, so once they are in the pasta they get cut up to eat anyway and the flat spot wasn’t noticeable. Wow. Benj is pretty adventurous to dive into lobster clam sauce.

  2. Elizabeth permalink

    Looks amazing! Can’t wait to try them. Glad you dove in to the book.

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