So this all started with two things. First was this show that I have only a dim awareness of…it is called iCarly, and it is usually playing somewhere in the background when the teenager is home, and when she isn’t watching House or Glee (two shows that I actually have heard of and like and watch.) Until last week, I hadn’t given more than a split seconds-worth of thought to the fact that iCarly even existed in the world.
Then I read this article in the New York Times.
And it got my competitive juices flowing. Apparently spaghetti tacos are enough of a phenomenon on this show that kids across the country are asking for them for dinner, thanks to whomever this guy is on the show.
Classic – did I just say that? Anyway, the “recipe” on the iCarly site calls for spaghetti, meat sauce and a taco shell. And a spoon. Creative, but not as tasty as it could be. I pondered this a while, and then it came to me. Way back before iCarly was even a twinkle in anyone’s eye, the New York Times printed a recipe for something called Spaghetti on a Stick by the always awesome Mario Batali. It called for making an easy but rich tomato sauce, some gorgeous meatballs, and cooking up a mess of spaghetti. You douse the spaghetti with the fabulous sauce, swirl a pile of the spaghetti around a chopstick, stick a meatball on the top of the stick to hold the spaghetti in place, wrap the whole thing in a piece of soft flatbread for easier handling, and there you have it – Spaghetti on a Stick. I made it once, and it was scrumptious thanks to the whole sauce and meatball wonderfulness…but the whole stick thing just seemed like more trouble than it was worth. But then this whole spaghetti taco business rolled around and a lightbulb went off in my head.
What if I made the Mario Batali sauce? What if I made the meatballs tiny? What if I used soft tacos instead of hard ones? With no stick?
NOW we’re talking.
Maybe I need to watch more Nickelodeon.
With thanks to Mario Batali’s Spaghetti on a Stick
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Spanish onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
- 2 28-ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes
- Salt to taste
- 3 cups day-old bread, in 1-inch cubes
- 1 1/4 pounds ground beef
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
- 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Flour tortillas
- In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes, until carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Simmer 30 minutes. Season with salt.
- Soak the bread in water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water with your fingers.
- Combine the bread, beef, eggs, garlic, pecorino, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and mix with wet hands. Form the mixture into one inch meatballs.
- In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil on medium until almost smoking. Add the meatballs and, working in batches to avoid crowding, cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, cover and simmer all the meatballs for 30 minutes. Allow to cool.
- Bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, until tender but still al dente. Drain well in a colander.
- Meanwhile, gently reheat the meatballs and sauce. Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan and toss until completely coated and pour into large serving dish. Warm tortillas in microwave and serve with pasta, allowing folks to scoop out their own spaghetti and meatballs into tortillas.