Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dinner Possible - Fusilli with Mini Meatballs

I’ve been experimenting with different shapes of pasta…I find it amazing that something that has the same 3 ingredients, flour, water and salt, can feel, taste and act differently just from the way it is shaped.  Spaghetti, macaroni, fusilli (corkscrew pasta), Orecchiette (little ears), Gemilli (tightly twisted “twins”) they all seem to work better with one type of preparation or sauce.  In Italy almost all meals start with a  “primo” course,  generally a filling pasta or rissoto.  Then they move onto the main course.  Here, in America, the pasta dish is our main dish.  So here is a fun, tasty dinner.  It will take a little more than 30 minutes to get it onto the table, more like 90 minutes, but most of that is unsupervised time, so you can let it simmer away on the stove while you go do other, more important things, like playing with the kids, the dog, or your friends on Facebook.  I’m sure there is a Mafia War going on that needs your attention. :-)
In this recipe I used Fusilla Pugliese made by Dal Raccolto, a maker of hand rolled Artisan pastas native to the Molise region of Italy.  You can find these pastas and order them on-line.  If you don’t want to order it; go to your store (or Italian market)  and  substitute Cavatappi, Cavatelli, Gemilli or Orecchiette; or any pasta shape that will readily hold the sauce and is not too large so it will work well with the small meatballs.

Fusilli Pugliese with Mini Meatballs

  • For the Sauce:
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces red wine (remember, the alcohol cooks off so it’s o.k. even for the kids, but you can substitute a non-alcohol wine such as Fre, Ariel or Vandalia, just DO NOT use anything labeled “cooking wine”)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 1 tablespoon dry (although to be honest, dry basil doesn’t have much flavor IMO)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (like basil, dried parsley doesn’t have much flavor and fresh is always avail in the supermarket so why bother with the dried stuff?)
  • For the Meatballs
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork, veal or turkey
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs, or as needed
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound Fusilli Pugliese pasta, or use Cavatappi, Cavatelli, Gemilli or Orecchiette (all have good nooks and crannies to hold the sauce), cooked according to package directions, and well drained

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan; add the onion and garlic, saute over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the tomato paste and saute for a few minutes; add the tomato sauce, along with the wine, and herbs. Mix well, lower the heat and simmer slowly for about an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs – combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl; using clean hands mix well adding more breadcrumbs if the mixture seems to loose (this is something kids love to do). Form small, about 3/4 inch, meatballs. After the sauce has cooked for an hour, add the meatballs and simmer for 30 minutes more.
  3. Pour the sauce and meatballs over the pasta; toss gently to combine.  Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.  Serves 6 – 8
  4. Per Serving: 526 Calories; 18g Fat (6g Sat, 8g Mono, 2g Poly); 23g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 70mg Cholesterol; 1116mg Sodium.
Serve this with a simple salad of mixed lettuces and a nice Balsamic Vinaigrette.  So many people buy dressings at the store, but this low-fat, low-cal dressing dressing is so tasty and easy to make, why pay for the additional high fructose  corn syrup and artificial colors?
6 – 8 cups mixed salad greens 

A kitchen necessity, IMHO
A kitchen necessity, IMHO

– even if you buy pre-washed lettuce, I would wash it again.  You never know how well it was washed, or how it was handled after.  And with all the bacteria “scares” going on out there, why take a chance?  You can make short work of this with a salad spinner, or do what my Grandmother did, rinse it well in a sieve, the put it into a kitchen towel and go outside and swing it around, all the water will fly out, and it’s kind of fun too.

Balsamic Vinageriette


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl. Use sparingly over salad greens.
  2. Per Serving: 31 Calories; 3g Fat
Wine Recommendations: With the tomato sauce a perfect pairing would be a  medium body fruity red, like a Sangiovese or Chianti.
LindySez: SoSousMe – The kids are going to love the mini-meatballs, and I think you will too!

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