Comfort food for a bitterly cold day… For the this dish, I pulled recipes from 2 different books. The meatballs are a modified version of Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas‘ take. The tomato sauce is the famous tomatada by David Leite I use ever so often.
Spaghetti and meatballs in a tomato sauce with basil
Ingredients for the meatballs
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 500g ground beef and pork
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried persil
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- Salt and pepper freshly ground
- Olive oil to taste
- Flour as needed
Ingredients for the tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
- 2 springs fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 garlic gloves minced
- 1 kg very ripped tomatoes, seeded and chopped* (or a couple of canned tomato, preferably san marzano, chopped, juices reserved).
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste, to taste
- 1 small fresh medium red hot chilli pepper, such as Serrano, stemmed, seeded and chopped (it optional. Sometimes, I just add a few drops of piri piri sauce).
- Freshly grounded salt and black pepper to taste.
- Fresh basil
- Boiling water
- A little bit of olive oil
Heat the stove the 190 oC (=375 oF).
Place a large heavy base, non stick frying pan on a low heat with 2 dashes of olive oil. Add the sliced onions, a pinch of salt and pepper then sauté gently until soft and tender. When it is done add the minced garlic and let it fry for a 1 minute more. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl combine the meat with the herbs, the eggs and the caramelised onion. Once the mix has aggregated, roll the meatballs with your hands. Roll them in flour so all the surface is coated.
Place a large heavy base, non stick frying pan on a low heat with 2 dashes of olive oil. Gently brown the meatballs, about 5min, adding more olive oil if needed. Reserve the frying pan.
Place the meatballs in a baking tray coated with olive oil and put it in the stove for about 30min or until they feel solid.
In the meanwhile, start the tomato sauce. Use the frying where you browned the meatball. Add more oil if necessary, and heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onions, parsley and bay leaf and cook until nicely golden, about 15min. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more.
Turn the heat to medium low, stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste and chilli pepper, if using. Bring to a simmer, cook, lid ajar, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 30min.
Once the tomato sauce is done and the meatballs are out of the stove, you will need to combine both. Just drop gently the meatball in the frying pan, making sure the surfaces are coated. Let it simmer gently for about 20min.
In the meanwhile, boil spaghetti. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. If cooking dry spaghetti, use a mimimum of 500ml of water for each 100g. of dry spaghetti. Once the water is boiling, you will need to add the spaghetti. Reduce the heat so that the water is on a slow boil. Let it cook as said in the package. When ready, drain and add some olive oil to avoid sticking.
On a plate, put the spaghetti and on top the meatballs and the tomato sauce. Add a basil leaf for decoration and extra flavor.
I found this dish by accident in Leite’s Culinaria. And it was just what I was looking for: asparagus are in season, a party was on the planning and if not edible, at least it was decorative. Truth to be said,it was a pretty good idea. It even passed the 11 year old test (minus asparagus).
Asparagus Tart Recipe
- 1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off
- 1 bunch fresh spinach (about 20 largish leaves), stems trimmed (optional) (I used 500g frozen spinach, prepared as in the packet instruction)
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 pound phyllo, thawed according to package directions (used regular puff pastry, bought in the supermarket).
- 1 3/4 cups grated Gruyere
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup heavy cream (used soya cream)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
1. To make the asparagus tart, preheat the oven to 175°C.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Plunge the spears into the water for just a moment to blanch it, then remove it and toss it into the ice water. Do the same with the spinach, if using.
3. Meanwhile, brush a 23cm square tart pan or a 36cm rectangular tart pan with a little melted butter and line it with a sheet of phyllo pastry, pressing the phyllo against the side of the pan and allowing the excess to hang over the edge of the pan. Brush the top of this sheet with more butter and top it with another sheet of phyllo. Repeat until all the phyllo is used. Trim the edges of the phyllo flush with the top of the tart pan. (Phyllo can me a nightmare to work with, and I was in a hurry. Just got some regular puff pastry from the supermarket, buttered the tart tray and put the sheet in).
4. Drain the asparagus and the spinach, if using, and pat them completely dry.
5. Setting the quiche:
If using spinach: Arrange a layer of spinach on the phyllo. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Add the Gruyere, a second layer of spinach, and season again. Beat the eggs, cream, and nutmeg in a bowl, then pour the mixture over the tart. Arrange the spears in a row on the tart. Brush the exposed pastry edges with a little butter. Cut a piece of parchment or foil that covers the inside of the asparagus tart but leaves the phyllo edge uncovered.
If not using spinach: Sprinkle the Gruyere over the phyllo. Beat the eggs, cream, and nutmeg in a pitcher or bowl, then pour the mixture over the tart. Arrange the spears in a row on the tart. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Brush the exposed pastry edges with a little butter. Cut a piece of parchment or foil that covers the inside of the asparagus tart but leaves the phyllo edge uncovered.
6. Bake the asparagus tart, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Cover the center but not the edge of the pastry with the parchment or foil and continue to bake until the center of the tart is just set, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let the asparagus tart rest a few minutes before slicing. (I was not very precise with the paper foil, and the edges got slightly burn).