I mentioned in my last post that for the first time, I stayed in this past New Year's Eve and had a quiet night of movie watching. Just because I was staying in alone didn't mean I couldn't have a great dinner. I'm not really a spaghetti and meatballs kind of girl, but when I saw this recipe back in June on Bridgett's blog, I promised to make it when the weather got a little cooler and I was in the mood to do this kind of recipe. This is a kicked up, fancier version of the classic. The meaty sauce is the perfect vehicle for the amazing, flavorful meatballs with a smoky mozzarella surprise on the inside. Bridgett warned me that the meatballs are addictive and I could not agree more. This is a warming, comforting dish for a cold winter night, but really, you can make it anytime you get the craving for a spicy meatball.
Spaghetti All'Amatriciana with Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs
(Adapted from La Bella Cook)
Makes 4 servings (A note about the serving size. This post advises that 2 ounces of uncooked pasta per person is an appropriate serving size. This has varied in the past on my posts, but in the interest of being a little healthier, it's the rule I am going to go by from here on out. You will get anywhere from 16-20 meatballs with the recipe below. Four meatballs per person is plenty. If you have leftovers, have them as a snack!)
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, crushed in a food processor or blender
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
For the meatballs (Makes 20 meatballs):
1 small onion, grated
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish if desired
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons ketchup
4 garlic cloves, grated
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces smoked mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)
8 ounces spaghetti or other long pasta
To make the sauce:
In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it is crisp and golden.
Remove the pancetta from the pan using a slotted spoon. Add the onions to the pan and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Cook the sauce uncovered over medium-low heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Reduce heat to low, cover and set aside to keep warm.
To make the meatballs:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the onion, parsley, Parmesan, panko crumbs, egg, ketchup, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Add the turkey meat and use your hands to combine.
Use a tablespoon measure to scoop out the mixture. Form into a circle and make an indentation in the middle. Place a cube of mozzarella in the indentation. Roll into a ball, making sure the meat covers all of the mozzarella.
Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Toss the meatballs with the sauce.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. Cook for 9 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce and meatballs. Serve topped with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley if desired.