Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tomato Harvest Spaghetti and Meatballs

For the past few years, I have invested all of my efforts in tomatoes for the growing season.  This year, I took a leap and went for potatoes, which has greatly paid off.  But, never wanting to completely walk away from a successful outcome, I still planted a few tomato plants in containers.  I like to push the season a bit, by planting my tomatoes by mid April.  This takes into chance the plants dying should any really cold weather come around.  But it is a chance I am willing to take given the alternative... not having enough time for the tomatoes to ripen.  I guess I prefer to take the chance up front to shoot for the longer growing season, than wait for the tomatoes to develop and hope there is enough good weather for the tomatoes to ripen.  In years past, I've been able to harvest by early July and continue to do so through mid September.  This year, given our poor weather, it's was late August before any tomatoes have ripened.  And therefore, instead of the pleasure of truly vine ripened tomatoes throughout the summer, I am really getting one main harvest with a few stragglers early on and a few I am still hoping will turn before the plants die.


This week I have gathered all the ripening tomatoes, about 5 lbs, and decided to make a sauce with them.  This has been my tradition each year at the end of the season.  Over ripened, perfectly ripened, not fully ripened all join together to form a delicious sauce.


Blanche the tomatoes quickly in boiling water, drain and let cool.  Peel and seed the tomatoes.  In a large sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.  Add one garlic clove cut in half and the tomatoes.  Cover and simmer until tomatoes are quite softened, about 30 minutes.  Let cool and crush in a blender leaving some small chunks in the sauce. 


I set aside half the sauce for another use.  With this half, it was spaghetti and meatball night.
3/4 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal 
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup parmagiano reggiano
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp finely chopped sweet onion
1.5 tsp kosher salt
ground black pepper to taste


In a large bowl, place bread crumbs in milk and let soak until softened.  Loosen the ground meats and add to the bread crumbs along with the parmesan, egg, parsley, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.  Using your hands or a spatula, mix to combine well.  Don't overwork the mixture.  My mom has always told me to make a soft and light meatball, don't overwork the meat and do not pack it when forming the ball.  I follow these tips whenever working with ground meat.  


Moisten your hands and scoop out enough mixture to make a golf ball sized ball.  Work gently, using just enough pressure to form the ball, but not pressing too hard.  Place each ball on a prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Heat tomato sauce in a large flat sauce pan.  In a large skillet brown meatballs in a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  You do not need to cook through as this will be done in the tomato sauce.  Place meatballs as they are finished into the tomato sauce.  Bring sauce and meatballs to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.
Meanwhile, cook your spaghetti and drain well.  Remove meatballs from the sauce to a separate dish.  Add cooked spaghetti to the tomato sauce and toss with a little fresh basil.  Plate spaghetti then add several meatballs to each dish.
Best meatball we've ever eaten!  I froze one of the baking sheets, so will look forward to that in a future meal.

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