I spend a lot of time on airplanes. I always have. And I kinda love to fly. I love starting the day in one part of the country, and ending the day in another. I love going to sleep on a plane and waking up in another country. I love the people watching in airports, and I love watching reunions – cue the Heathrow scene from "Love Actually," and I will tear up immediately.
Having said all that, occasionally, I have an experience that makes me re-consider my long-held romantic notion of flying.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself on a flight squeezed into a seat next to a gentleman who was obviously large enough to require 2 seats (ok, perhaps a seat and a third, but he was clearly space-invading), in front of a toddler who effusively sang “Old MacDonald Had a Farm… E-I-E-I-O” roughly 75 times in succession (I had to wonder, what on earth was her mother doing during this trying serenade?) Everyone knows I adore children of all sorts, but it virtually impossible not to recognize this song was not endearing to her plane-mates. All this singing, or perhaps the terrible turbulence (or both) set off the dog in the seat ahead of me, who started barking furiously and didn’t stop until we landed.
(When did it become a thing to have dogs in the cabin? Oh, and trust me, this traumatized yippy creature couldn’t have possibly been a service dog.)
Thank the Lord I had headphones… and loud music… and there was vodka on board.
But my true salvation was getting lost in a copy of The Best Food Writing of 2015. Tucked among the gems in this book, I found the delightful essay “Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change your Life with Pasta.” The title grabbed my attention. Yes, at that very moment, in my tiny portion of a seat, I longed for a plate of pasta to change my life.
This piece told the story of a family with young children who decided to host a rotating group of family and friends every Friday night for a year… by serving spaghetti and meatballs. It’s one of those pieces I come across every now and again that I think… Wow, I wish I had read that when my kids were tiny. Because that’s an inspired way to navigate a time in life when you need good friends around.
Meatballs are high on my list of perfect comfort foods. If someone places a steaming plate of spaghetti and meatballs in front of me, they’ve made my day. If a nice glass of red wine is involved, my week has been made. I totally understood how friends would line up for a spot at the table if I served spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night.
Last week, I brought home a copy of the Farmhouse Cookbook I found while shopping for a birthday present for someone else at Anthropologie (yet another illustration of my hopeless cookbook addiction, especially if you consider I didn’t actually find something for the birthday girl in question…). This is a gorgeous book, filled with the sort of lovely British comfort food I adore (things like Honey-Roasted Goose, Blue Cheese and Leek Tart, Herby Scotch Eggs, Bakewells and Sponge Cakes… to name a few.) Paging through it, I tried to convince myself that I didn’t actually need it… then turned to a recipe for Smoky Bacon Meatballs. Game over. The book now lives contentedly in my kitchen. And probably will forevermore.
I’ve been tinkering with meatball recipes for years, and have finally hit among my “keeper.” These are magnificent meatballs, my friends…the smoky bacon taste permeated every happy bite. I took the inspiration from Sarah Mayor’s recipe, and combined it with a few things I learned from Ina Garten along the way. The magical creations were popped in a bath of spicy Arrabbiata sauce and served with one of my favorite pastas, bucatini (though of course any pasta would work).
If I could stay in town long enough, I think it would be fun to start a Friday night meatball tradition at House Morell. I know my friends would line up to eat a plate of these…
A few things I’ve been crushing on at the moment:
The 2016 Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks has started! Fascinating cookbook reviews by a team of people who are perhaps even more cookbook-obsessed than I am! Who to pull for now that Seven Spoons is out of the Tourney?
Speaking of Book Tournaments, my students are taking part in March Book Madness, and are SO psyched about it!
I was utterly entertained by Bill Bryson’s latest, The Road to Little Dribbling. Laugh-out-loud entertained. My dear husband found this terribly annoying, as I’m chuckling and let’s be honest – snorting – while he sat across from me reading terribly serious tomes about the state of the world. Can’t decide if it would have the same charm for someone who hasn’t spend several years romping about the country and is a hopeless Anglophile, as I am, but the New York Times reviewer certainly loved it.
Happy Saturday, all! Thanks for stopping by…
Smoky Bacon Meatballs with Arrabbiata Sauce and Spaghetti
- 12 ounces smoked applewood bacon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 lbs ground pork
- 1 ¼ cups plain breadcrumbs
- ¾ cups grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cups warm water
- 3 jars good-quality arrabiata sauce
- 2 lbs spaghetti
- extra parmesan cheese, for serving.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the bacon into a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped.
- Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven until it begins to shimmer slightly. Add the finely chopped bacon to the pan and brown for about 5 minutes, until the bacon becomes crispy and a few tablespoons of fat is rendered. Remove the crispy bacon from the bottom of the pan with a large slotted spoon, so the fat remains in the pan.
- Slice the onion into quarters, and place in the bowl of the food processor until he onion and garlic are finely minced.
- Scoop the onion and garlic into the dutch oven, and cook oven medium heat for about 10-12 minutes, stirring often. The onion and garlic will become translucent, then begin to caramelize slightly, so it becomes a rich brown color. Scoop the onion and garlic into the bottom of the large bowl where you've placed the bacon.
- Add the ground beef, ground pork, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, oregano, basil, parsley, salt and black pepper to the bowl and begin to mix together well with your hands.
- Whisk the eggs with ¾ cups warm water, and pour it over the mixture. Continue to mix the mixture together until the egg and water is thoroughly combined.
- Shape the mixture into walnut-sized meatballs. I like to use my 1-inch ice cream scoop to do this.
- Place the meatballs onto cookie sheets and bake for 25 minutes.
- Once the meatballs have cooled slightly, place them back in the dutch oven. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti to the pot of water, and cook according to the package directions, until al dente.
- Serve the meatballs over the spaghetti, and sprinkle with a generous portion of parmesan cheese.