Roman Spaghetti and Meatballs

Menu Part: 
Cuisine Type: 
4 to 6 portions

This Roman-style dish features meatballs made with bacon, beef, garlic, Japanese breadcrumbs and red peppers. The meatballs top pasta with a sauce made from diced tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper and fresh marjoram.


6 oz. uncured diced applewood-smoked bacon  
4 large garlic cloves, peeled  
2 lb. ground beef, 15% fat
2⁄3 cup chopped, drained roasted red peppers
2⁄3 cup panko Japanese breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
1⁄2 cup coarsely grated onion
1⁄2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

31⁄2 tbsp. minced fresh marjoram
31⁄2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1⁄2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes in juice
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil


1. For meatballs: Grind bacon in food processor until coarse paste. Transfer to large bowl. Using garlic press, crush two garlic cloves. Gently mix bacon with crushed garlic, beef, roasted red pepper, panko, eggs, grated onion, ½ cup cheese, 1 tbsp. of marjoram, 2 tsp. of crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Let mixture stand 15 minutes.

2. Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tbsp. of meat mixture for each ball, roll mixture into meatballs. Arrange meatballs on baking sheet. (Can be made a day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.)

3. For sauce: Purée tomatoes with juice and remaining garlic in batches in blender until smooth.  

4. Put 1 tbsp. oil in pot and heat over medium flame. Add half of meatballs. Cook until brown on all sides, turning carefully, about 9 minutes. Transfer meatballs to baking sheet. Add more oil to pot, if needed, and repeat with remaining meatballs.

5. Increase heat to medium high. Add finely chopped onions and remaining crushed red pepper to pot and sauté until golden, about 6 minutes. Add tomato purée and 1 tbsp. of marjoram. Boil until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

6. Add meatballs. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until meatballs are heated through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

7. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in pot of boiling, salted water until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain and transfer to large bowl and toss with 2 tbsp. oil and
remaining marjoram, adding more oil to moisten, if desired. Divide spaghetti among bowls. Top with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and serve, passing additional cheese separately.

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