Birthday Spaghetti

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately–I have barely been cooking and have been working full-time while we’re in NYC.

Ben requested spaghetti and meatballs for his birthday, which he shares with Harry Potter and my late grandmother at the end of July. (Mine is the 1st of August, so we always end up with more of a joint celebration!) I have never made meatballs but was game to try, despite the limitations of the Shiny-but-Squeezed kitchen in our corporate apartment:


Actually it’s not that bad, though I’m not used to the flat-top electric stove (the pots slide when you stir! agh!) and the ventilation is terrible. It has about three feet of counter, which is three feet more than we have in Cambridge. The big downer is the glass cutting board, which makes horrible “I am killing your knife” sounds with every chop, and which sports a pebbly surface that makes it nearly impossible to chop things like parsley without just denting the leaves instead of cutting through them.


Mom sent me the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, which calls for white bread soaked in buttermilk. Mmmm, squishy.


I used a 1/3 pork, 2/3 beef mixture, with the bread, garlic, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. (Maybe I’m forgetting something?) I had heard so many dire warnings of meatballs that masquerade as musket balls that I was terrified of over-handling the mixture, and instead under-handled it.


I shaped the meatballs with such a gentle hand that when I put the first batch in the oil to fry and then tried to turn them, they gave way and crumbled. I actually preferred them this way, since I like meat sauce better than meatballs, but still: This was not a proper meatball.


(Excuse the dark and horrible photos. I got a new camera for my birthday and the amazing digital macro is about to revolutionize the photos here. Meanwhile I’m still using up photos from my old camera.)

I re-packed the next batch, making sure they were much tighter. I browned them very dark because I like a crispy outside:



Those held together much better, though they were still very delicate and tender.

The sauce in the CI recipe is really simple—a can of crushed tomato, basil, garlic, a little oil. It came together in about 20 minutes including cooking. I reheated the meatballs in the sauce while the pasta cooked, and ta-da! all done!

mb pot


For dessert I skipped cake because Ben is more of an ice cream guy. I bought some dark chocolate cookies and coffee Häagen-Dazs, and made a big ice cream sandwich!



ice 3

Happy birthday, honey!

4 thoughts on “Birthday Spaghetti”

  1. Hi there, friend! I’ve missed your posts, but we all have to work sometime, right?
    I know I’m commenting out of order, but I have to that I make ice cream sandwiches exactly like that! Coffee ice cream and everything! Sometimes I use those little Nabisco chocolate wafers (not many people remember these – they are great for this purpose) and make tidy little sandwiches that nobody can say no to.
    I’ve never made meatballs, either. Now I’m going to give it a go. You’ve emboldened me.
    Always waiting for more of your lovely food!

  2. Meatballs! As an Italian, the making of meatballs makes me proud. The secret to tender meatballs is having enough bread, so as long as there’s enough of that in there to balance the meat, you end up with meatballs, instead of balls of meat, and you don’t have to worry too much about over squishing.

    Can’t wait to see you when I’m back up in Boston in a few weeks!

  3. Nicole–You nailed it! Bread makes them meatballs instead of balls of meat. So true. And in fact the bits of bread that stayed on the outside and got nicely fried were my favorite part.

    Germi- MMmmmmm Nabisco Chocolate Wafers! So good and those must be adorable. A bowl of those would be so cute!

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