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you say basghetti…I say spaghetti


When my kids were little, like a lot of kids, they would ask for “basghetti”  for dinner all the time.  I would brown up some ground beef, onion, and garlic then season the meat mixture and add a couple of cans of tomatoes, then toss in cooked spaghetti noodles and call it a day.  As they got older, they would request it with meatballs. Being a good Irish girl, I wasn’t exactly an expert at Italian meatballs, so I would try to brown the ground beef orbs in a frying pan. Inevitably the result was a broken-up mess of over or undercooked meat that did not resemble balls of any sort. Finally, I got wise and decided to bake them instead, and voila, perfect meatballs! Over the years, I’ve perfected the recipe to its current state and my grown kids still ask for it by its name – ” can we have basghetti, please!” We have house guests this week, one of them is a darling 4 1/2-year-old named Zada.  Zada is the daughter of my long-time (24+ years) friend, Nancy, and more on Nancy and Zada in the days to come.

Spaghetti with Sicilian Meatballs

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups peeled and diced onion
1 red bell pepper; cored, seeded, and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
5 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided

2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup finely minced onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons dried oregano, crushed
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 pound spaghetti

Sauce: Heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium-low heat.  Add onion and bell pepper, and sauté until onion is golden about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, and stir for 1 minute.  Add tomatoes with juices, tomato paste, wine, and 3 tablespoons of the basil; bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low; simmer until sauce thickens, about 45 minutes.  Mix in the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

sausage mix on right, seasoning mix on right, about ready to come together

sausage mix on right, seasoning mix on right, about ready to come together

Meatballs: While the sauce is simmering, prepare the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray foil with Pam.  Mix crumbs and milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes.  Mix in Parmesan, onion, basil, parsley, egg, garlic, and black and red peppers.  Add sausage, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes.

ready for to bake in oven

ready to bake in the oven

Using hands, blend well.  Wet hands with cold water, and form the meat into 1-inch balls.  As they are formed, place them on a prepared baking sheet.  Bake until meatballs are light brown and cooked through about 30 minutes.  Add meatballs to the sauce and simmer gently.

Yum, do these ever smell good!

Yum, do these ever smell good!

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to the bite, or al dente.  Drain.

Mound pasta on a serving dish. Spoon sauce over spaghetti and serve.

Serves 8

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