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This comes from a cookbook (The Frankies Spuntino) that was a very thoughtful birthday present for Jules from my sister Claire: an authentic Italian hangout in New York. We’d never heard of it, so it was a great treat to be introduced to something new. The two Frankie’s have gone back to their roots to produce real home cooking like their mothers and grand-mothers made in Italy and this is a great read as well as a useful addition to our recipe inventory. A Spuntino is a snack or a place to eat them, so this is about flavour and comfort rather than cheffy complications – we like it!

Warning – you will need to start this recipe the day before; it is not something you’ll have time to whip up after work as it takes at least 4 hours for the big pot of sauce alone. It is well worth it and the leftover sauce is exceptionally useful for so many extra dishes, plus it is a darn sight better than those jars of tomato sauces with celebrities on the front that you buy at the shops. Julie made the sauce while I was at work on Saturday and then we made the meatballs together on Sunday.

Frankies Spuntino’s very useful tomato sauce – makes heaps!

  • 1 x US cup (237ml) good quality olive oil
  • 13 cloves garlic
  • 4 x 800g tins of Italian tomatoes (go to a good deli to get them – we got ours in Roy Fox’s)
  • Large pinch of chilli flakes
  • 2 tsps fine sea salt

Put oil and garlic into a large deep saucepan and cook over a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, giving the odd stir, until he garlic is deep golden with streaks of brown, and fragrant. If it starts to smell bitter or is colouring too quickly take if off the heat and turn the heat down.

While the garlic is on, pour the tomatoes into a bowl (you’ll need a big one) and crush them with your hands. Discard the stem end and any basil leaves in the can.

When the garlic is done, add the chilli flakes and cook them for 30 seconds or so, to infuse the spice into the oil. Throw in the tomatoes and salt and give it a good stir. Turn the heat up to medium and bring the sauce up to a gentle simmer. Leave it there for 4 hours – stirring now and again.

Check for salt at the end. You can now cook the sauce with meat (as below), leave it covered in the fridge for at least 4 days or freeze for a few months. If you are cooking the meatballs cook them in the entire quantity of sauce and then keep the leftover sauce for later – it gives it a great flavour – though remember you did this when your veggie friends come over!

Meatballs to serve 6 (if there is less than 6 people still make the whole batch as they keep in the fridge and can be frozen)

This recipe uses American cup measures so we’ve given you a rough equivalent – I don’t think you need to be too fussy for this recipe

  • 4 slices bread
  • 2 lbs minced beef
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup (or about 60ml) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese plus about a cup (237ml) for serving
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts
  • 1 1/2 tsps fine sea salt
  • 15 turns white pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) dried breadcrumbs
  • Tomato sauce (see above)

Heat the oven to 160C/325F. Put the fresh bread in a bowl, cover with water, and let it soak for a minute or so. Pour off the water and wring out the bread, then crumble and tear it into pieces.

Combine the bread with all the remaining ingredients, except the tomato sauce, in the order listed. Add the dried breadcrumbs last to adjust for wetness: the mixture should be moist wet, not sloppy wet (our mixture was sloppy wet so we added more dried breadcrumbs).

Shape the meat mixture into biggish meatballs and space them evenly on a baking tray. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The meatballs will be firm but still juicy and gently yielding when cooked through.

At this point you can cool the meatballs and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days or freeze them for later.

Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce in a saute pan large enough to take the meatballs easily.

Put the meatballs into the sauce and turn the heat up a little bit. Simmer for half an hour or so until they soak up a bit of sauce. They don’t get better the longer you leave them so don’t abandon them altogether.

Serve 3 meatballs per person in plenty of red sauce , and cover each portion with a load of grated Pecorino.

Save the leftover sauce and use it anytime tomato sauce is required eg pizza, pasta, lasagne, etc.

Yum yum!

Wine suggestion: something red and Italian is the obvious choice and will give you the right amount of acidity to balance the tomato sauce – nothing too fancy!

 

 

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