Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

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I swore to myself as I made these spaghetti and meatballs that I’d never attempt them again. I mean, this recipe is labor-intensive and time-consuming. But then I cut into a meatball and I slurped some of the noodles and sauce and you know what? These are the best spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever made, so uh, looks like this recipe is a keeper. And the leftovers last for days — if you can keep yourself from taking seconds. And thirds.

Classic spaghetti and meatballs

Ingredients:

For the tomato sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 sprigs basil
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
Salt and pepper

For the meatballs:

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten to blend
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup finely chopped prosciutto
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef, preferably 20% fat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spaghetti

1. Make the tomato sauce: heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add basil sprigs and stir to wilt. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands, and their juices; season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and flavors have concentrated, about 1 hour.

2. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the eggs, garlic, ricotta, prosciutto, parsley, and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Add fennel to bread mixture along with oregano, nutmeg, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well. Add beef and break up into small pieces. Mix gently with your hands until smooth and ingredients are evenly incorporated; be careful not to over-mix.

3. Lightly oil your hands. Working one at a time, scoop out 1/4 cup portions of meat mixture; roll gently between your hands into balls. Arrange on a baking sheet.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium. Add half of the meatballs and cook, turning and rolling occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Add meatballs to warm sauce. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining meatballs.

5. Cook meatballs in sauce (they should be mostly submerged) at a gentle simmer, gently scraping bottom of pot and adding a splash of water if sauce begins to stick, until meatballs are cooked through and tender, about 40 minutes.

6. Transfer meatballs to a clean baking sheet; cover with foil to keep warm. Pluck out and discard basil from sauce. Use an immersion blender to break up any large pieces of tomato and smooth out sauce.

7. Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Using tongs, transfer to pot with sauce. Stir, adding a little bit of pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Transfer spaghetti to a serving dish and top with meatballs and any reserved sauce. Sprinkle with more Parmesan and serve.

Beef Meatballs with Kale and Radishes

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The weather is getting chillier these days, the mornings foggier, and I’m layering again, Bay Area-style. In other words, the temperature has dropped below 75 degrees and I’m freezing. I’m also craving heartier food, like meatballs and leafy greens. I can turn on the oven in this weather too, which is perfect, because quite frankly, I’ve always kind of sucked at stovetop meatballs. But oven-baked? I’m a pro.

These oven-baked beef meatballs are among my favorites to prepare. No red sauce here: just the meatballs, sauteed kale and radishes, and a couple of secret ingredients: garam masala and miso. That’s right. You’d never guess it, but a dollop of salty-sweet white miso and a sprinkling of warm spices gives these meatballs an extra depth.

Cold weather isn’t so bad after all.

Beef meatballs with kale and radishes

Ingredients:

1 egg
4 garlic cloves, 2 finely grated, 2 thinly sliced
3 tablespoons white miso
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Pecorino, finely grated
3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
1 pound ground beef
2 bunches Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
8 radishes, trimmed, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Whisk egg, grated garlic, miso, milk, garam masala, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Mix in Pecorino and panko. Add beef gently mix with your hands just until all ingredients are evenly incorporated (do not over-mix).

2. Working one at a time, scoop out 2 heaping tablespoons mealtball mixture and roll into balls between your palms. Place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake meatballs until lightly browned on top and cooked through, about 25 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add radishes and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add kale and stir, until they wilt, about 5 minutes. Push kale and radishes to one side of skillet. Pour remaining 1 teaspoon oil on the empty side and add sliced garlic. As soon as garlic starts to sizzle, stir it into vegetables. Remove pan from heat and add lemon juice to mixture; season with salt. Toss well.

3. Tear meatballs in half and add to skillet. Toss everything together and serve warm.

Spicy Beef Bulgogi

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The weather may be warming up (at least in California) but grilling season is still a couple of months away. In the meantime, I’ve been satiating my cravings with this spicy beef bulgogi: it’s easy to make on the stovetop but the flavor still imparts a pleasant smoke and char.

This marinade is endlessly adaptable and the final dish is fun to enjoy as a group. I served this alongside lettuce leaves, sticky rice, and homemade ssamjang, or Korean barbecue sauce. I include the recipe for my version below.

Spicy beef bulgogi

Ingredients:

For the bulgogi:

1/3 pear, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 pound hanger steak, boneless short rib, or sirloin
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
sliced green onions, for serving

For the ssamjang:

5 tablespoons doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste)
3 1/2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean red chile paste)
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts (optional)
1 1⁄2 tablespoons rice syrup
1 tablespoon minced white onion
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 green onion, sliced
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Marinade the beef: combine pear, garlic, soy sauce, gochugaru, ginger, sugar, and sesame oil in a large resealable plastic bag or bowl. Slice meat into very thin strips. Add to marinade, seal bag, and squish everything around until the meat is coated. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes or chill up to 8 hours.

2. Make the ssamjang: In a bowl, add all the ingredients; stir until combined. Set aside.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high until oil is shimmering. Remove half of meat from marinade, letting excess drip back into bag; cook in a single layer without moving until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Toss meat and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until cooked through and crisp at edges, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining meat. Serve topped with green onions.

Lamb Larb

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Anything I get to wrap in lettuce to eat makes me happy. (See: bulgogi, spring rolls, etc.) Larb is right up there with the best of them. It’s typically meat seasoned with that perfect balance of hot-sour-salty-sweet and served with sticky rice, herbs, and lettuce to wrap it all up in. Larb is popular in Laos and the Issan region of Thailand and while lamb doesn’t usually factor into traditional larb, I love this unorthodox version.

Ground peanuts substitute for the more traditional toasted rice here. Think of this as a protein-packed flavor bomb wrapped up in guilt-free packaging.

PS: Please ignore the godawful lighting in this photo. Blame my impatient tummy.

Lamb larb

Ingredients:

1 stalk lemongrass
4 garlic cloves
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
2 red Thai chiles
2/3 cup salted, roasted peanuts
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground lamb
Cooked sticky rice, butter or bibb lettuce leaves, sliced cucumber, lime wedges, and mint sprigs for serving

1. Remove tough outer layers from lemongrass. Thinly slice the bottom 6 inches from the bulb end. Pulse lemongrass and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add shallot and Thai chiles and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl; set aside. Pulse peanuts in food processor until coarsely ground and transfer to another bowl; set aside.

2. Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar in a small bowl; set lime dressing aside.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over high. Add lamb to skillet and press into a single flat layer with a spatula. Cook, undisturbed, until underside is browned and crisp around the edges, 5–7 minutes. Use spatula to break into smaller pieces and turn. Cook pieces on the other side until edges are crisp and meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer lamb to a bowl with a slotted spoon, then use spoon to break up meat into bite-sized pieces.

4. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet and set skillet over medium heat. Cook lemongrass mixture, stirring often, until fragrant and starting to stick to skillet, about 3 minutes. Add reserved lime dressing and peanuts and return reserved lamb to skillet. Toss until meat is coated. Remove from heat and season with more fish sauce, if desired.

5. Serve larb with rice, lettuce, cucumber, limes, and mint sprigs for making lettuce cups.

Crispy Orange Beef

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I feel guilty admitting this, but sometimes I want nothing more than to transport myself to the 1980s and indulge in some stereotypical Americanized Chinese food. Chicken chow mein. Beef and broccoli. Crab rangoon.

Or maybe this crispy orange beef. Sure, it isn’t healthy or authentic by any stretch of the imagination, but it satisfies that nostalgic craving. And it tastes oh so good.

Crispy orange beef

Ingredients:

1 pound flank steak, cut into pieces 1 inch long, 1/2 inch wide, and 1/4 inch thick
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 orange
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
vegetable oil, for frying
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
5 green onions, sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as triple sec or Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1. Mix the steak, baking soda, and 5 tablespoons of water in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

2. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange. Cut the zest into thin strips about 1 inch long and set aside. Save the orange for another use.

3. Make the sauce: mix the sugar, vinegar, rice wine, soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.

4. Heat a wok over high heat and add enough vegetable oil to come up about 1 inch. Meanwhile, add the remaining cornstarch and egg white to the steak and mix well to coat the steak with the batter.

5. Add the flank steak to the oil, one piece at a time so it doesn’t splash or stick together. Stir until it begins to look crispy, about 2 minutes. Using a straining spoon, transfer the steak to a colander to drain.

6. Reheat the oil and return the steak to the wok. Fry again until the beef is crispy all over, about 2 minutes. Using a straining spoon, transfer the steak back to the colander to drain. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok.

7. Return the wok to high heat and add the green onions, steak, sugar-vinegar sauce, orange zest, sesame oil, orange liqueur, and chili garlic sauce. Stir-fry until all ingredients are blended, about 1 minute. Serve warm.