Esquire Eats

Spaghetti With Meatballs

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Esquire's Food Editor Tom Parker Bowles delivers his version of a gangster movie classic. 


Spaghetti with meatballs - Italian-American food at its best, star of more mob movies than you can shake a cannoli at.

Purists may argue that Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese’s 1990 red-sauce-splashed classic, was the meatball’s greatest ever cinematic moment.

“Veal, beef, pork …” mumbles Vinnie, cooking up his prison feast. “You gotta have the pork. That’s the flavour.” Then he chops the garlic with a razor blade.

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But it’s actually in Point Break, Kathryn Bigelow’s brilliant 1991 surf, screw, run and rob film, where the meatball reaches its peak. So fine is one meatball sandwich that it actually causes the cops, who are on stakeout, to miss the bank being robbed.

When done well, meatballs have that sort of effect.

Shopping list (serves 4):

500g minced pork
250g minced steak or beef
1 whole egg and 1 yolk
85g breadcrumbs, soaked in 125ml milk for 10 minutes, then squeezed out
2–5 dried chillies, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsps olive oil
500g dried spaghetti
Grated parmesan, to serve

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For the sauce:
2tbsps olive oil
1½ onions, finely chopped
1–3 fresh Thai or finger chillies, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2½ x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
8 basil leaves, torn

The Guide:

1 To make the meatballs, mix the pork, beef, egg, egg yolk, breadcrumbs and chillies together with a good pinch of salt and lots of pepper, then cover and chill for 30 mins (the mixture, not you).

2 Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions, chillies and garlic and cook gently until soft.

3 Add the tomatoes, season, and simmer uncovered for 40 mins. Add the basil at the end of cooking time.

4 Roll the meat mixture into small, squash-ball-sized balls.

5 Heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat in a frying pan and fry the meatballs for 2–3 mins, leaving the inside a little underdone.

6 Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling lightly salted water, following the timing on the pack.

7 Then, 5 mins before the spaghetti is ready, add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 5 mins, until cooked. Drain the pasta and serve with the meatballs, sprinkled with parmesan.

Let’s Eat: Recipes from my Kitchen Notebook by Tom Parker Bowles is out now

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