10 March, 2010

Dish #1 Italian/American

Last week I bought some meatballs reduced to 50p in Sainsburys and felt excited to use them for Around the World in 80 Dishes project however when I was doing research into the recipe I was disappointed to discover that this dish was in fact a combination of old Italian meatball recipe for polpette adde
d to spaghetti to please the americans. It first came about during the 19th century when South Italian immigrants were making their way to the US. This is why this recipe in my project is given both the Italian and American heading.

Spaghetti and meatballs is such a simple recipe that I thought it would be an excellent way to ease into eating around the world. As I've mentioned above, I used pre-made meatballs but its simple to make your own. All you need is minced meat (I usually use lean beef, but it does work with lamb, pork or turkey), breadcrumbs, oil or eggs to bind, and herbs, spices and seasoning to flavour. Last night however I finished work at 11pm so had to make something quick before the boy went to bed (he claims he sleeps better on a full stomach but in my opinion he's just too lazy to cook for himself while I'm at work!)

So I present to you, dish number 1, Spaghetti & Meatballs, served with homemade garlic bread.

This is not a recipe that has to use exactly what I use, it's a preference recipe and you can add whatever you want if you think it'll enhance it for you.

Starting with ingredients. I used my store bought meatballs which were 50p in Sainsburys, since they were dated for that day I froze them and then defrosted them before use. I used linguine instead of spaghetti because that's what we had in the house. Basic chopped tomatoes, great for cooking dishes like this with because your adding all the flavour. Tomato puree to thickening up the sauce. One onion and a clove of garlic, I personally feel there is nothing like fresh garlic for adding flavour. Soy sauce, I've always put it in tomato pasta dishes, I feel it gives it a bit of a kick. Cherry tomatoes and fresh parsley. Instead of cherry tomatoes you can use peppers, mushrooms, sweetcorn, whatever takes your fancy really. I just feel adding something else always gives the dish a bit more depth which is important for me since the boy takes a lot to fill up! Of course, herbs, spices and seasoning I haven't listed but will mention in the step by steps.

This isn't necessarily everyones step one, I just prefer my pasta to be very very soft so I always put it on first. The best way to cook anything of course is to follow the instructions on the back of the packet then add or subtract time depending on how you like it to be cooked. If you do like it soft like I do, I recommend a good 20 minutes of cooking and if you need to don't be afraid to add more water. Place into a pan with boiling water and add some salt. Leave on a medium heat to cook.
Thinly chop the onion and add to a pan with the crushed garlic clove. Pour over some oil (or dry fry if you want to be healthy) and cook on a low heat until the onion starts to go soft. Every now and then stir to ensure that the onion and garlic don't burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.

While the onion is cooking, pour the chopped tomatoes into a bowl and add one to two large spoons of soy sauce depending on how you want this to taste. I then added some cayenne pepper, paprika, Parmesan, black pepper, salt & some dried Italian herbs I had left from when I was at uni and living on frozen mince, ha. Give it a good mix together.

Add the meatballs to the pan with the onion and garlic and stir so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring until they're browning on all sides.

Add the tomato sauce and some tomato puree to thicken it then cover with a lid so the meatballs have time to cook thoroughly and the sauce will thicken more. Leave on a low heat so again nothing will stick to the bottom of the pan. This is so important if like me you're not using expensive non stick pans, ours just came from Ikea. They're working well so far but I'd rather not risk it.

Next quarter the cherry tomatoes and dice the parsley. Leave on the chopping board while the meatballs and pasta cook.
Now to make the garlic bread. I personally believe you can't have pasta without garlic bread, I mean how are you going to mop up all that lovely left over sauce!? Since I had a spare moment while everything cooks I made my own. You can use any bread really to do this but we had some left over French stick from lunch so I used that. I chopped it in half and put it on a baking tray. Thickly spread some butter, thickly as it's nice to have it melt right through the bread, especially something thick like French stick. Sprinkle over some garlic powder generously, after trying with paste and fresh I've found garlic powder works best for this. Then top with some dry herbs. Put it in the over for 5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you want it. I usually put it on a low heat so the butter melts slowly rather than burns.

Once the meatballs have cooked right through (you can check this by cutting into one to make sure it's brown in the middle), drain the pasta and stir into the tomato meatball mix. At this point I also added my cherry tomatoes so they keep their shape rather than turn soggy. Then of course serve with the garlic bread and topped with fresh parsley. Delicious and very filling, which is brilliant since I barely even spent £3 on it!

Tonight I'm cooking Thai Satay Chicken, it's already marinating in the fridge.

If you'd like to offer a country for me to create a recipe from or even a recipe you think I should try, please feel free on my project page for
Around the World in 80 Dishes. Everything I plan on cooking has elements of authentic and traditional recipes with my own personal twist.


  1. Looks great! I used to love doing meatballs before :)

  2. Can't you do vegan ones now? Like isn't there such a thing as tofu balls? Or soy...maybe. I don't know, I'm totally clueless about vegan stuff, I was trying to even find somewhere vegan friendly for when you come visit but I totally failed! :(

  3. YUM this looks lovely, the boy made me teryaki chicken last night which is a great dish to make :)x

  4. I was actually going to do teryaki when I do Japan :) Thanks Eleanor!

  5. hahaha don't worry most coffee shops do soy milk :)

    yeah I can make fake meat ones although the texture makes it difficult to make balls :S

  6. quorn do some fake beef meat balls