Ditalini and Meatballs

Hello 2017! I am so excited for a new year and new opportunities that I am willing my way this year. Did you have a great holiday? I wanted to start out this year by talking about one of my favorite foods: Spaghetti and Meatballs, and the fact that today is National Spaghetti Day makes it even more exciting.

I don’t think that there is are any pasta shapes that I have met that I did not like. My favorites include rigatoni and spaghetti. My husband is not a fan of spaghetti (don’t ask me why) so it’s not something that we often get to eat in our house. With today being National Spaghetti Day I am totally force-feeding him an entire bowl!

Ditalini and Meatballs

I decided that instead of making traditional spaghetti to celebrate today I was going to transform a childhood favorite: SpaghettiOs. This was definitely something that my mom would never buy for us as kids but was something that I had my fair share of during my college years. My recommendation would be to buy the version with the meatballs but don’t eat the meatballs. They really just made the sauce taste better.

Since I’m an adult now I try to make better choices that food in cans and so for National Spaghetti Day I made an adult version of SpaghettiOs. And this time I did eat the meatballs because they were so flavorful and delicious and adorably small. As a matter of fact I’m enjoying the leftovers for lunch today and you will enjoy this meal for dinner tonight!

Ditalini and Meatballs
Author: April | Food n’ Focus
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck (20% fat)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup shallots, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 large sprigs basil
  • 16 ounces ditalini
Instructions
  1. Purée tomatoes in a food processor until mostly smooth; there should still be some dime-sized pieces remaining. Set aside.
  2. Whisk panko, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, and 1½ tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in egg and cream. Add beef and mix with your hands until just combined, being careful not to overwork (if packed too firmly, meatballs will be dense). Form into 1″-diameter balls (you should have about 24); transfer to a plate.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another plate.
  4. Cook shallots and garlic in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and begins to soften, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook until brick red, about 1 minute. Add paprika and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sugar, basil, and reserved tomato purée. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced and flavors have melded, about 20 minutes. Add meatballs and any accumulated juices; continue to cook until meatballs are cooked through, 5–10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and return to pasta pot. Pour sauce and meatballs over pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with cheese.
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Ditalini and Meatballs