Introduction: Spaghetti ~IN~ Meatballs!

About: ♫ Basking in sunshine ☼, creating new dishes... growing zucchini and swimming with fishes. Rattlesnake hunting the desert in Spring; these are are a few of my favorites things. When the wind flies, when the p…

Spaghetti in meatballs.  I have no idea where the inspiration for this appetizer came from.  An amazing visual just popped into my head last week and it wouldn't go away.  

I ran the idea by a close friend who seemed rather doubtful this recipe could be accomplished... which was all the motivation I needed. ;-)

These delicious little gems were created with angel hair pasta and whole milk mozzarella stuffed into one of the best restaurant-quality meatballs you've ever tasted.  Yes... they're that good... but instead of taking my word for it, let's get started:

Step 1: Ingredients and Tools Needed:

Meatball Ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb Hamburger Meat
  • 1/2 lb Ground Chuck
  • 5 oz (1 tub) Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup fresh Bread Crumbs from 2-3 slices of day-old French or Sour Dough Bread
  • 1/3 cup whole Milk
  • 2 cloves Garlic- finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning mix
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 oz Angel Hair Pasta
  • Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese
  • Garlic-Pepper Salt to season the water
Specialty Tools:
  • Blender or Food Processor
  • Chopsticks (connected) or a cocktail fork
  • Parchment Paper

Step 2: Pasta Prep:

  1. Add 2-3 inches of water to a stock pot.
  2. Generously season the water with Garlic salt and bring to a boil.
  3. Add whole, unbroken pasta.
  4. Cook al dente.
  5. Drain and rinse.
  6. Put pasta in a bowl and cover with ice water for several minutes to chill.
  7. Drain again.
Line a large plate or baking sheet with plastic wrap or wax paper. 

Pile 1/2 cup cooked pasta on one side of the plate.

Insert (stab) the connected chopsticks into the center of the pasta and twirl it a few times until you have a quarter-sized ball of pasta.

Use the chopsticks to slide the pasta bundle out of the pile and off to the side. Twirl until the ball is tidy.  Repeat the process until you have 18-20 pasta balls.

Freeze uncovered for 20 minutes.

Step 3: Meatballs Part 1:

These incredible meatballs was adapted from a S&M recipe at Bon Appetit.  They are far-and-away the best meatball I've ever made or tasted.  The recipe incorporates powder-fine parmesan cheese and fresh, country-style bread crumbs.  A little additional prep is required, but it's well-worth your time.

Parmesan Prep:

Measure one cup of shredded Parmesan cheese and put it in your blender or food processor.  Pulse a few times, then blend on high until the consistency is very fine.

Put the parmesan powder into a small bowl and set aside.

Fresh Bread Crumbs:

Remove the crust from the day-old  bread slices and tear it into smallish hunks. Put a few hunks into your blender/ food processor.  Pulse a few times then blend on high.  Work in small batches to prevent the bread crumbs from clumping if the moisture content is a little too high.

Measure 1 cup of bread crumbs into a small bowl.  Stir in 1/3 cup whole milk.  Stir to moisten.

Set aside for 5-10 minutes, allowing the milk to be completely absorbed. 

Mince the garlic cloves.  Whisk the eggs in a small bowl.   Whisk the minced garlic into the eggs.  Set aside.

Step 4: Meatballs Part 2:

The key to making perfect meatballs may begin with quality ingredients, but over-mixing even the best ingredients will result in a hard, crumbly meatball that isn't worth eating.  

Proper mixing is absolutely critical  (obviously, I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.;-) and here's how to do it:
  1. Crumble the ground beef and ground chuck into a large bowl. 
  2. Put 1 tsp Italian season and 1 tsp Salt into your palm and rub it briskly with your free palm to release the essential oils and aroma. Sprinkle it evenly over the beef.
  3. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the meat mixture.
  4. Add the whisked egg/garlic.
  5. Scoop up the bread crumbs and squeeze gently to remove any excess milk. Add to the meat mixture.
Form your dominate hand like a claw.  Quickly and gently mix meat mixture just until all ingredients are evenly combined.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap.  Chill at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Step 5: Stuffing:

Stuffing the twirled pasta balls:

While the meatball mixture is resting,  remove the pasta balls from the freezer.

Cut the mozzarella cheese into small cubes and push/work the cubes into both sides of the twirled pasta ball. 

Repeat until all pasta balls are stuffed with cheese.

Put the pasta balls back into the freezer until the meatball mixture has finished chilling.

Stuffing the meatballs:

Scoop out about 2-3 Tablespoons of meat mixture into your palm.  

Flatten it slightly and push the pasta ball inside.

Work the meat mixture gently around the pasta/cheese ball to seal it in.  Gently roll the meatballs into shape.  If you pack it too hard, the cheese will explode during baking. ;-(

Cover and chill the stuffed meatballs for at least 30 minutes before baking.  They can be kept refrigerated up to 24 hours if you want to make them ahead of time.

Step 6: Bake:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

Place the meatballs 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper*.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. (Set your timer and check for done-ness after 10)

Oils/fats will release from the meatballs during baking and they may look a little messy until you remove them from the baking sheet with a spatula.  

As you can see, a teeny bit of cheese seeped through on a few of my meatballs. No worries if this happens to you, too. The meatballs will still be loaded with cheese and spaghetti.

*If you don't have parchment paper you can use foil that's been moderately greased.  Just be aware that the meatballs tend to stick so removing them is a little difficult.  I know this because?  I experimented. ;-)  

Step 7: Garnish, Serving Suggestions and Notes:

I didn't want to overwhelm the flavor and texture of the meatballs, so I decided to use simple garlicky red sauce, complimented with sliced sundried tomatoes and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. 

Spaghetti in Meatballs are tastiest when served warm from the oven while the mozzarella is heavenly-luscious and melty.  Be sure to prepare your sauce-of-choice and garnishes ahead of time.

Sauteed fresh Portabello mushrooms and a smidge of freshly chopped basil would really compliment this appetizer.  A grilled cap could be used as a "boat" with the meatball nestled on top.  (sigh)... why is hindsight always 20/20 and why don't I have portabellos in my frig?!?


p.s. If presentation isn't terribly important to you, these meatballs also taste wonderful when gently cooked in a simmering red sauce for 10-12 minutes. (See the final picture.)

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