Before I started dating Jeff, I couldn’t stand cooking with someone else in the kitchen. But I’ve come around. For one thing, he has excellent taste in kitchen music, which means lots of dancing while you’re cooking. For another, some recipes are much easier with four hands. Like Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti, one of this month’s Barefoot Bloggers recipes.

Jeff was all about this one. Meatballs with veal,  pork AND beef? Yes. And it was the perfect recipe for taking his new meat grinder on its maiden voyage. He processed the sirloin roast and a half-pound of pork cut from a full pork loin in about 30 seconds. Then I mixed the meat with the ground veal and formed the meatballs. The recipe says you’ll have 14 to 16 meatballs. That’s 14 to 16 meatballs the size of billiard balls. Ina’s meatballs are no joke.

After Jeff browned the meatballs, we used the same pan to make the sauce and simmered the meatballs in the sauce for about 30 minutes. (Most of the liquid evaporates, so if you like to see the sauce on your plate, make a double batch.) The meatballs were good straight out of the pan, but they had much more flavor after soaking in the sauce overnight. With this many meatballs, it’s a good thing they get better with time.

Anyway, this Valentine’s Day, I hope you have someone to dance with in the kitchen.

Real Meatballs and Spaghetti

From Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Family Style”

Serves 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For Serving:

  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  1. Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.
  2. Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.
  3. For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  4. Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.