Meatballs and Montepulciano

I finally got my hands on some of Joe Campanale’s Annona Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, a wine I first tried at dell’Anima in the West Village several years ago and then again at L’Apicio Restaurant in the East Village last December. Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a deep-colored hearty rosé wine for people who like red wine but want something a little different. Not to be confused with Vino Nobile de Montepulciano from Tuscany, which is made from the Sangiovese grape, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is its own red grape varietal, grown in east-central Italy. cerasuoloIt has some of the cherry aromas and flavors of Sangiovese, combined with the rose petals of Nebbiolo. But since Cerasuolo has not ben left on the grape skins as long as a full-blown Italian red wine, it is less acidic and less tannic which makes it light enough to serve with vegetables, pasta or fish and hearty enough to enjoy with meats. Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a lovely wine for the fall season. Serve with a slight chill on it and you’ll look really cool to all your wine geek friends.

I was so excited to find this wine at a retail establishment and wanted to make a meal that complements it, so I decided to pair the Annona Cerasuolo with a Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe I adapted from Ina Garten‘s take on the classic dish served at the infamous Rao’s Restaurant in East Harlem. Since getting a reservation at Rao’s is harder than winning the lottery, I’m glad to be able to make this restaurant-quality version of spaghetti and meatballs at home.  I substitute turkey for the beef and bake the meatballs to cut down on splattering grease and time (make the sauce while the meatballs are in the oven).  The addition of parmesan cheese and water to the meatballs makes them tender and moist. Added carrots give a natural sweetness and extra nutrients to the tomato sauce, and I also add extra tomatoes because the original recipe was a little dry for my family’s taste. The meatballs are truly the star of this recipe. Honestly, I have yet to find a meatball recipe I like as much as this one.  It takes about an hour to prep, and then you still need another 30 to 45 minutes for the sauce to simmer and all the flavors to integrate. You could make the meatballs a day ahead, if you don’t have a big chunk of time. The sauce actually tastes as good or even better the next day.

Sunday Spaghetti And Meatballs 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

What you will need:

2 lbs of Spaghetti

Ingredients for meatballs:

1 lb ground turkey

1/2 lb ground pork

1/2 lb ground veal

1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

3 Tbsp chopped parsley

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tssp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 egg

3/4 cup warm water or milk

Vegetable oil

Ingredients for sauce:

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup finely-chopped carrots

1 cup chopped onion

2 tsp (approx 2 cloves) minced garlic

1/2 cup red wine or chicken broth

2-28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen Organic are my favorite)

1 1/2 tbsp chopped parsley

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

With a fork or your fingers, lightly combine the meats, breadcrumbs parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, eggs and water in a large bowl. If using your fingers, be careful not to knead the meat mixture, or the meatballs will be tough. Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, form meatballs into 1 – 2 inch balls and place them on a well-oiled baking sheet. Bake meatballs in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes (or until they are brown) on each side.

For the sauce:  Measure 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil into a large skillet over medium heat and scrape the residual oil and brown pieces from the baking sheet into the skillet as well. You should have enough oil to cover the skillet well, about 2 Tbsp. If you need to add more oil or remove some oil, do so as needed. The degree of fat in your meat will create more or less oil on the baking sheet. Sautee’ the carrots in the oil for about 6 to 8 minutes until they are medium soft. Then add onions and sautee another 5 to 7 minutes until both the carrots and onions are soft. Add garlic and cook the vegetable mixture another minute. Pour in red wine or chicken broth, crushed tomatoes with liquid, parsley, salt and pepper. Heat sauce to boiling point and add partially-cooked meatballs to the sauce. Simmer sauce and meatballs for 40 to 45 minutes to allow meatballs to complete cooking and flavors to permeate the sauce.

Serve meatballs and sauce over cooked pasta in a wide pasta bowl, like the one pictured from Crate and Barrel.  Drizzle with a good quality olive oil and/or sprinkle with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.