I’m for hand made. I’m also for sanity. And reality. I have lots of fantasies, and some of them involve having afternoons that dapple endlessly during which I roll out pasta like a nonna & sauce bubbles away on the simmer plate all day long. Others involve me living in a cottage in the Burren studying the physics and metaphysics of the herbs that populate the hedge. And yet others involve me being the sort of woman who still wears high heels, lots of lipstick, and extraordinarily complicated lingerie. Alas, my real life is not comprised of such things. Well, not usually.
Not these days anyhow. But that doesn’t mean that bits & pieces of those other lives can’t mingle with my real one. I can wear red lipstick and make meatballs & pasta from scratch with a cup of herbal tea brought back from Ireland to fuel me. And I’m never above reaching for a solid jar of great tomato sauce (most especially when tomatoes aren’t in season), namely this jar of Bertolli’s new Gold Label Imported Porcini & White Truffle Sauce that the nice folks over there sent for me to try out. And try out I did, over and over. It’s earthy, rich, and pulls this whole dish together effortlessly. The best part is it allowed me the time to dote over the tactile pleasures of the hand made pasta & meatballs that I’m making for a little Italian themed supper as part of the #BertolliGoldLabel Italian Progressive Dinner Party.
I am, as you see, doing the pasti course in the progressive dinner party. The meal wouldn’t be complete without checking out my fellow bloggers recipes in the menu: you can find a gorgeous antipasti of mushroom polenta bites on Shutterbean and a primi of Carmelized Onion Stuffed Portobellos on Dine & Dish for the first portion of the progressive dinner party menu. And head over to Oh Sweet Basil tomorrow for a secondi, and don’t miss the all important dolci course from A Cozy Kitchen on November 7th! We’re making all the foods, and you can keep up with where we’re at in the progression and find links to my fellow hosts recipes on Bertolli’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well.
If I tried to do it all, most days, a pile of deadlines would crash unceremoniously on my head. This way I can have my pasta & eat it too. Some days, I go for a box of good dried pasta & simmer a sauce. Some days I do it all. Some days, I do none. Today, let’s make pasta from scratch (which, if you have kids, is especially fun!) And the best meatballs you will, dare I say, ever eat. Make them. Please. Do that for yourself. I have seriously never cared about a meatball like I do these. They’re incredibly moist and full of flavor. All three together—the pasta, meatballs, and the Bertolli Gold Label Porcini Sauce–were enough to make me care about something as seemingly common as spaghetti and meatballs. Which is saying a lot for a novelty seeker such as myself. I can’t wait to serve this at the party! The looks on my friends’ faces when they try the food, that’s what I’m really in it for. Well, that and eating it.
Homemade Spaghetti & Bison Fennel Meatballs with Porcini Truffle Sauce
- 9 ounces all purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling
- 3 eggs
- 1 lb ground bison
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup plain, fine bread crumbs
- 1 heaping tablespoon mushroom powder (mix of dried mushrooms ground to a powder)
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
- 1 cup finely grated parmesan (or other hard, salty cheese)
- olive oil for frying
- one jar of Bertolli Gold Label Porcini & White Truffle Sauce
- First, make the pasta. In a bowl or on a clean work surface, form a well in your flour. Crack the eggs into the well. Stirring them with your finger, slowly incorporate flour from the sides. Once most of the flour is incorporated and it starts to get crumbly turn it out onto the work surface (if using a bowl) and start to knead, using a bench scraper to pull it together. It will start to come together and form a smooth, elastic ball. If it feels a bit dry, wet your hands and work it some more. If it's sticky, dust the surface with flour and work it in. It should be smooth, pliable, and velvety. When you press the ball of dough with your finger and it bounces back, you're ready to wrap it up in plastic wrap and give it a good rest, about an hour.
- While the pasta rests, make your meatballs. Line a tray with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs except the olive oil for frying. Using your hands, gently mix it all to evenly combine. Wash your hands, coat them lightly with oil, and gently roll the mixture into golf ball sized balls, lining them on the parchment as you work. Cover with plastic and chill until ready to fry.
- Roll out your pasta into spaghetti according to the manufacturer's instructions on your pasta roller. I usually roll my dough 2-3 times on the widest #1 setting before passing it through the narrower settings. For spaghetti I roll it to a #4 or #5 on my machine before cutting in the attachment depending on how thick I want it. Toss with semolina on a sheet tray to prevent sticking.
- Now it's time to fry our meatballs. In a skillet large enough to fit them all without crowding (if you don't have one, just do them in two batches like I do) heat olive oil until shimmering over medium high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides. This is critical to their wonderful flavor and should take about 7-10 minutes total. Once all the meatballs are brown, pour the jar of sauce into the skillet, and simmer it all over medium low while you cook your pasta.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the fresh pasta in the water and cook until just al dente, about 5-7 minutes.
- Drain the pasta and then toss it in the pan with the meatballs and sauce. I usually run a pair of kitchen shears through the spaghetti to make it more tossable and less tangly. Once it's all tossed together, sprinkle with a bit of parsley and cheese over the top and serve it with tongs hot from the pan!
And a big thank you to Bertolli for including me in their progressive dinner party & sponsoring this post! I was compensated for my recipe & photographs, but my opinions (and addiction to this sauce) are, as per usual, all my own. I hope you enjoyed the recipe, and feel free to follow along with #BertolliGoldLabel to see what’s next on our collective menu!