I generally shy away from spaghetti and meatballs because it’s a dish that seems simultaneously boring and incredibly difficult to execute. When a dish is so simple, it has to be done really well, and when there are millions of recipes for tomato sauce and meatballs, how are you supposed to narrow them down? Recipe searching stresses me out to the point where I become paralyzed by my indecision and want to just give up and head to the nearest Chipotle. I have no problem making big decisions quickly (law school? sure! why not?), but little, insignificant decisions like which red sauce recipe to use for tonight’s spaghetti can turn me into the most stressed out, second-guessing, indecisive person until I force those around me to actually make the decision for me. I’m working on it. That’s part of why I started this blog, after all: to remember things that I’ve made, good or bad.
In hindsight, recipe searching yesterday wasn’t too bad. There was a brief period of stress when I texted Matt a few pasta ideas and he responded with “any of those sound great” instead of actually deciding on one, but it subsided when I opened my recipe catalog to find a single entry for spaghetti and meatballs. I already have a meatball recipe that I’m devoted to (see here and here), so that part of the menu was set, and the millions of tomato sauce recipes in existence were quickly narrowed down to the one that I had in front of me. I guess all of that time that I’ve spent typing recipe names into a spreadsheet wasn’t a waste after all. I might have considered searching for other sauce options had this one not been so simple, requiring only four ingredients: two cans of tomatoes, a stick of butter, two halved onions, and salt. Can I tell you how much joy I felt when dropping a stick of butter into a pot of tomatoes? I didn’t even use a whole stick, and it was still quite the thrill.
I had the idea of a kale caesar salad in my head because we had a bunch of kale in the fridge, and it’s an obvious choice to go with Italian food. A quick Google search brought up a recipe from a trusted source that was exactly what I had in mind. Sigh of relief. To round out the meal and sop up any sauce that remained on our plates, we had a rustic loaf from Rustica Bakery. I neglected to mention earlier that Matt had initially suggested making meatball subs for dinner, but after I’d eaten a sandwich for lunch I just couldn’t get into the idea of following it with a heavy, meat-filled sandwich for dinner. Meatballs served on a bed of carbs with a side of carbs are totally a lighter option, right? For the record, I only managed to eat two of the meatballs and some of the pasta pictured below.
Fresh pasta: The Silver Spoon Pasta
Meatballs: Smitten Kitchen
Tomato Sauce: Bon Appetit, October 2010
Kale Caesar Salad: Bon Appetit, July 2011
After all that I still feel the same about spaghetti and meatballs. Every component of our dinner was great, but as a whole it didn’t blow me away. The meatballs were amazing, as always. The sauce was simple, bright and made even more delicious by a handful of torn, fresh basil that I stirred in at the end. I can see myself returning to this recipe for all kinds of uses – I think it would be especially great as a pizza sauce or for lasagna. I’ve never met a kale salad that I didn’t like, and this one was no exception. The anchovies in the dressing were tempered by the fresh lemon juice, and topping the salad with a grated (or pressed through a sieve; I opted for grating) hard-boiled egg is something I plan to do more regularly on all types of salads.
Maybe this is a case of me having a higher standard for Italian food than most other cuisines. A box of pasta and a jar of tomato sauce have never been on my list of go-to meals, no matter how broke or busy I have been. I never order pasta at a restaurant unless the restaurant specializes in it. So yes, I am picky about my pasta. I would rather blow calories on things like carnitas and good bread and cheese, but I’m not ready to give up on making good, homemade Italian food.
Have you ever made life-altering spaghetti and meatballs? Does an overabundance of available recipes stress you out? What are your secrets?