Spicy meatball spaghetti dinner brings family to the table



For the sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 1⁄2 teaspoons dried)

Pinch ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 (11⁄2-inch-thick) bone-in pork chops

3 (28-ounce) cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes

2 bay leaves

For the meatballs:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1⁄2 cup milk

3 slices white bread

1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed and chopped

1 pound ground veal (or turkey)

1 pound ground chuck

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1⁄2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

11⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

2 pounds thin spaghetti, cooked al dente

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Chopped fresh parsley

Make the sauce: Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, 15 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add pork chops and cook 5 minutes, turning once. Stir in tomatoes and bay leaves. Fill one empty tomato can

with water and stir water into the sauce. Bring to a low boil, then stir,

cover and lower heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 4 hours, until pork falls from the bone. Remove the bones and bay leaves. Shred or chop the pork and return it to the pot. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper if needed.

About 45 minutes before serving, make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking pan with sides and set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, garlic and oregano and cook 15 minutes, stirring often, until onion is translucent. Remove from heat and let cool. Put milk in a shallow bowl and submerge the bread to soak. Remove bread and squeeze out any extra milk. Tear bread into small pieces. In a large mixing bowl, combine soaked bread, loose sausage, veal (or turkey), chuck, cooled onion mixture, egg, parsley, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands, then shape into 16 (2-inch) meatballs. Place meatballs in the prepared baking pan and bake 20 minutes.

Remove meatballs from the oven, place gently in the sauce and simmer at least 10 minutes. Serve hot over the cooked spaghetti, sprinkling with cheese and parsley.

Yield: 16 meatballs and enough sauce and spaghetti for 8 servings

Recipe from "The Whole Hog Cookbook" by Libbie Summers (Rizzoli, 2011)

• Marialisa Calta is the author of "Barbarians at the Plate: Taming and Feeding the American Family" (Perigee, 2005). For more information, go to www.marialisacalta.com.


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