For my birthday, my dad stood in line at Williams-Sonoma so that he and my mother could present me with an autographed copy of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home. I literally squealed with joy when I opened it – look, isn’t it awesome???
The book is really gorgeous, and the recipes are all super enticing. However, as I flipped through the pages, I realized that even though the dishes were more accessible than, say, the ones in the French Laundry cookbook, they were still pretty complex and detailed. In other words, I probably wasn’t going to be making any quick weeknight meals out of Ad Hoc.
The next free weekend I had, I decided it was on like Donkey Kong. I chose this recipe first because it didn’t require any unusual ingredients, and, well, I love pasta and meatballs. It turned out that the most time-consuming part of the dish was the tomato sauce (which I will post separately) – the meatballs themselves were actually pretty straightforward and, dare I say, easy.
Easy as they were, these meatballs were fantastic. The moistness and flavor were just right, thanks to the excellent mixture of meats (I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of veal, which I don’t normally love). The cheesy center was just plain decadent – you really don’t NEED the mozzarella, since the meatballs are plenty rich on their own, but if you can say no to cheese, you have much more willpower than I do.
So, the first Thomas Keller experiment was a success – the dish was even a hit leftover, reheated in the microwave the next day. Even though technically it was just “spaghetti and meatballs,” I was very proud of myself and couldn’t wait to try the next recipe on my list.
Heat the canola oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and reduce the heat. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, to soften the vegetables without browning them. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Next step: meat. If you have a meat grinder, the cookbook has a great breakdown of how to set things up and run the meat through. I have a grinder attachment for my Kitchen-Aid mixer, but I really just didn’t want the hassle of DIY grinding. So, I had the butcher at Whole Foods grind everything for me fresh. I know, I’m a cheater, but I’m relatively sure that Thomas Keller would have wanted me to enjoy SOME time with my husband that day.
In a bowl, combine the ground meat, onion and garlic, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of parsley, and the egg and mix gently to incorporate evenly. Do not overwork the mixture. To check the seasoning, put a small patty of the meat on a plate and cook in the microwave for 30 seconds, then taste and add more salt if desired.
Divide the mixture into 12 equal balls, using a scant 1/2 cup (4 ounces) for each.
Cut the cheese into 12 cubes, about 3/4 inch. Shape the meatballs, stuffing a cube of cheese into the center of each one.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
Put the meatballs on the cooling rack and bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through but still juicy. Remove from the oven and let the meatballs rest on the rack for a few minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle; drain and put in a large bowl. Toss with the melted butter, the remaining tablespoon of parsley, and the lemon juice.
TK’s Serving suggestion: Spoon the tomato sauce into a gratin dish or shallow serving dish. Top with the meatballs and garnish with fried oregano. Serve the pappardelle on the side.
"You have to watch it all the time or it burns up."