Monday, January 17, 2011

At bacon's altar. by violet

Bacon seems to be everywhere these days, in mayo, envelopes and band-aids. It has me wondering what the heck all the fuss is about. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some bacon but does is really require that we all worship at its altar?
Back from our unexpected adventure to California and with a few extra days off, I was on the hunt for something delicious to make. Something that would require more time and effort than I would normally put into your average weekday meal.

When Alexis shared this recipe with JP and me, I knew I would be making it, as it combined three of JP’s most favorite things in the world - pasta, tomato sauce and bacon. It seems incredibly decadent to have bacon in both the meatballs and the sauce – the perfect thing to eat right before the New Year’s diet really starts to kick in.

Spaghetti and Meatballs All'Amatriciana
Meatballs:6 ounces uncured applewood-smoked bacon (about 6 slices), diced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 pounds ground beef (15% fat)
2/3 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar
2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)*
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coarsely grated onion
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice (preferably San Marzano)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
6 ounces uncured applewood-smoked bacon (about 6 slices), cut crosswise into thin strips
1 tablespoon (or more) extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups finely chopped onions
1 1/2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram

1 1/2 pounds spaghetti
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For meatballs:
- Place bacon in processor. Using on/off turns, grind to coarse paste. Transfer to large bowl. Using garlic press, squeeze in garlic. Gently mix in beef and all remaining ingredients. Let stand 15 minutes.
- Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 11/2-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on sheet. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap; chill.

For sauce:
- Puree tomatoes with juice and garlic in batches in blender until smooth.
- Cook bacon in large pot over medium heat until crisp; transfer bacon to plate.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil to drippings in pot and heat over medium heat. Add half of meatballs. Cook until brown on all sides, turning carefully with small metal spatula, about 9 minutes. Transfer meatballs to baking sheet. Add more oil to pot if needed and repeat with remaining meatballs.
- Increase heat to medium-high. Add onions and crushed red pepper to pot.
- Sauté until golden, about 6 minutes. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, stirring up browned bits, about 8 minutes.
- Add tomato puree and marjoram. Boil until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix bacon into sauce.
- Add meatballs; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until meatballs are heated through and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

For pasta:
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; transfer to large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons oil and marjoram, adding more oil to moisten, if desired. Divide spaghetti among bowls. Top with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and serve, passing additional cheese separately.

The whole recipe is rather labor intensive - I dirtired just about every kitchen contraption that I have. But let me tell you – totally worth it. The smoke from the bacon just puts the whole thing over the top. It also makes a HUGE batch which in the end I was incredible grateful for because JP and I were eating leftovers like it was going out of style.

Also, I chose to ignore the part about pureeing the tomatoes with garlic. Number one, because that seemed silly to me, I like my pasta sauce chunky. Number two, I only have a small Cuisine Art and no blender. So there was no way I was going to do 25 small batches of sauce. Not happening. But in the end that sauce turned out a little runny and I wished I had blended it.

Also my first batch of meatballs would not stay together. I ended up making the second batch smaller and they seemed to stay together better – so pay attention when the recipe says to make them small. They aren’t lying.
If you are looking for a lovely Sunday dinner dish and you can devote and afternoon to frying bacon and rolling meatballs, this surely comes highly recommended. I now worship at the altar of bacon.

Violet in Ugg Cozy Knit slippers in brown

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