Food You Can Eat: Fettuccine and Meatballs

My mouth is watering just looking at this picture.

First things first:  I was going to call this “Spaghetti with Meatballs” but all I had was Fettuccine.  Doesn’t matter.  Also, we were still working through the yellow tomato puree and the garlic heads from last year’s harvest and I needed to do something to use more of it.

A caveat before we get started:  This is a combination of two different recipes:  Mrs. Butcher’s meatball recipe (which we usually use for escarole soup), and the meatless sauce for pasta recipe from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.  I had to take some liberties with the Artusi recipe—plus I futzed with the amounts—so basically most everything here is to taste.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Fettuccine, or Spaghetti, or whatever.  I don’t care. What I do care about is that your pasta is the type that has been cut with a bronze die, not a teflon die. Bronze die-cut pasta, which is more traditional, creates little imperfections in the pasta which then hold the sauce. Tefldon die-cut pasta just lets all the sauce slide right off, and that’s a crime.


1 lb Ground Beef

1 lb Ground Pork

A Shitload of Garlic, minced

Not Quite a Shitload of Romano Cheese, grated

Fresh Parsley, chopped

Fresh Thyme or Oregano, minced

½ Cup Bread Crumbs

3 Eggs



Nutmeg (trust me), about a teaspoon


2 Tbsp. Butter

2 oz. Pine Nuts

1 tsp. Flour

1 Medium Onion, minced

3 Qts Tomato Purée



1 lb Mushrooms, sliced thinly

Anchovy Paste

To make the meatballs, mix all of the meatball ingredients together until thoroughly combined.

This is so you can see roughly what the proportions of garlic, cheese and parsley are.

Roll the meatballs by hand.  They should be fairly small—about the diameter of a quarter.

I always want to make them bigger because then I’ll be done faster. But smaller is better.

Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmering, but not smoking, cook the meatballs in batches.  Here’s how to cook meatballs without them breaking up, sticking to the bottom, or otherwise going to shit:  shake the frying pan in a circular motion every 30 seconds for about 10-15 seconds, so the meatballs roll around and find a new resting place.  This ensures that they stay round and don’t get stuck (assuming you’re not using a non-stick surface).  No need for all of that tedious turning of each meatball individually—that’s bullshit.  Check one of the meatballs–you know, for quality control–to make sure it’s done. Once the meatballs are done, remove from the frying pan and set aside.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a pot over medium heat and brown the pine nuts in it, stirring frequently.  This will not take long.

This took about 5 minutes.

Remove the nuts from the pot and grind them with a mortar and pestle, with the flour.  Don’t have a mortar and pestle?  What the hell is wrong with you?  I’ve told you to get one at least twice.

If it doesn’t look like this, keep grinding.

Place the minced onion in the pot that you just used for the pine nuts and sauté until it starts to caramelize, but does not begin to stick to the bottom.  Then pour in the tomato purée, salt, pepper and mushrooms and give everything a stir.  Then add the pine nut paste and anchovy paste and stir until everything is thoroughly dissolved in the sauce. 

The purée was made from yellow tomatoes, which are less acidic.

Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces and thickens a bit—roughly half an hour.  Then add the meatballs, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for another half hour.


Meanwhile cook and drain your pasta.  Top with the sauce and some additional Romano cheese because Parmesan cheese is weak-ass bullshit.

Serve with some lightly toasted crusty bread and a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette.

This sauce may not taste like a whole lot the first day, but as the meatballs marinate overnight, the sauce becomes much better the next day.

About butcherbakertoiletrymaker 580 Articles
When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


  1. 1) I love eating pine nuts so this is very bad for me.  I don’t know how many would survive the roasting process.

    2) I would defend Parm, but not from the can (Kraft).  I don’t understand why people still buy that crap.  It is an insult to cheese, but also to my nostrils.  To be I only buy the pre ground stuff because I am lazy although from time to time I will buy a small chunk (from the fancy cheese section, not the cheez (Cracker Barrel, etc) section) and grind it.

    3) Pass on the shrooms.  An Asian person who hates mushrooms?  Yeah, this person.

    4) I usually make Meatballs and sauce using Marzella Harzan’s 3 ingredient sauce.  I’ll try making this one sans shrooms.

  2. Did you know that spaghetti and meatballs is unknown in Italy, and if you see spaghetti and meatballs on an Italian menu you should leave, because that is a tourist trap geared to Americans? I’m trying to remember what an Italian told me about this once I brought it up, but it would be like you order a fish dish in a sauce (or maybe unsauced) and then dump a side of French fries over it. In Italy meatballs are served as a side, unsauced. It wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it would be kind of unexpected.

    • By the way, this is not a criticism, I love spaghetti and meatballs, just a general observation and chance to share another nugget from my vast trove of somewhat obscure trivia.

    • There’s an Italian restaurant near us, which is the standard by which all Italian food in this country should be judged.  They don’t have spaghetti and meatballs on their recipe, but they do make a mean lasagna with unsauced meatballs on the side.

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