This comforting dish definitely has the flavors of ITALY but isn’t Italian in its form nor presentation nor originally an authentic Italian dish at all from Italy but actually an adaptation of a dish by Italian immigrants in America in the early 20th century. And yet, like modern-day versions of lasagna and pizza, it provides complete comfort and almost gluttonous satisfaction on a rainy and cold weekend after months of confinement and a slow-paced and hesitant return to quasi-normality.
Borders are (or will be) slowly and soon opening up between most countries, at least neighboring ones. This dish is also about blurring borders between traditions and modernity and making allowances to satisfy most folks. Mixes and adaptation bring more people together and refusing them usually brings problems and unrest and unfair treatments of newer ideas and ways of living … Need I say more ?
Like this dish, you start off with good ingredients like the tonic beef and pork (or replace with veal) and grated fennel meatballs I made years ago and of which I often have a stock of in my freezer, and you layer the different elements and flavors with a home-made tomato sauce, later combined with pasta, to create something special.
Whether its original and authentic or not, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s good and can satisfy and feed many people all around the same table in a merrily fashion.
Concerning the fresh fennel bulb-flavored meatballs, I find it’s better to partly oven-bake them first, so they don’t break up while frying, since they’re relatively small (about 2 tbsp each) and then I recuperate the juices at the bottom of the baking dish, fry up the meatballs in olive oil in the large pan in which I’ll make the sauce, to develop a nice golden crust and then remove them to make the tomato sauce, in which I add those reserved juices and fats to flavor the tomato sauce which is also accentuated with crushed fennel seeds, and finally I add the meatballs back in and let everything gently simmer until the pasta is ready.
For the proportions, I like to have twice as much tomato sauce or 1 kg, as compared to the weight of the cooked meatballs or 500 grams and an almost equal weight or amount of cooked pasta, as compared to the sauce with meatballs. In this case, you’ll end up with almost 1,5 kg of prepared sauce (1 kg of tomato sauce and 500 grams of meatballs) and approximately 1,25 kg of cooked pasta, but you can make more or less pasta, depending on your preferences.
That’s the end of my spaghetti & meatballs story, so have a nice weekend and see you soon … :)