Winter. In all its frosty glory…how I pine for spring! To be fair, winter in my hood has been fairly mild this year. No snow (yet) which is unusual for late January. With only a few months left in the season, I am in my glory. Signs of spring are starting to creep into the daily newsfeed, catalogs, blogs. I know – not so fast. I must bide my time and wait out the winter chill – which at the least means that I can tuck myself into the kitchen with cookbooks and pots, not feeling at all guilty about staying inside while the winter wind does her thing outside.
And tucked in, I am! A recent quick trip to my apartment in (chilly) Montalcino allowed me to scoop up all the January (and a few lingering December) Italian cooking magazines. The village was quiet, buttoned up for a January riposo before the hustle and bustle of the new season begins. It was a magical trip in its own right as the pressure to always go, go, go was gone, gone, gone. It was heavenly to just tuck under a blanket in my little apartment, reading my magazines as the winter light changed from its bluish hue to a fading crimson tinged sunset; our village clock tower helping me keep time by its chime every 30 minutes (or so – it tends to ring at rather odd times).
Back in the States, the edges of my magazine stack are now punctuated with little blue stickies popping from every inch of page space – recipes waiting to be translated and tested in the month ahead. (And a wonderful distraction to the ridiculous political situation, I might add.) Blow your heart out, winter wind.
This recipe for spaghetti nests made with broccoli rabe meatballs caught my eye immediately – spaghetti formed into little nests with a tiny meatball tucked on top….a nod to the approaching spring perhaps. These are very easy to make, albeit just a bit time consuming. However, you can make the meatballs and sauce in advance and then pull it all together just before dinner. I didn’t parboil the broccoli rabe as I enjoy the bitterness of the rabe – but if you do not, feel free to throw that broccoli rabe in a pot of boiling salted water for a few minutes prior to using it in the recipe. I always fry my meatballs as my mother did. Something very calming to me about the ritual that I am sure takes me back to my mother’s kitchen. You can of course roll them all and bake them in the oven until cooked through.
To form the nests, grab a pair of tongs and pick up a bunch of spaghetti. Twirl it over the muffin cup and you should hopefully have your nest. (Worst case, use your fingers to fiddle with the pasta until it resembles a nest :-)). Drop a little meatball on top and a bit of sauce. Pop the pan in the oven for about 15 and there you go – cute little spaghetti nests!
With that, I am off to tuck into the gennaio issue of ‘A Tavola’! Enjoy this nesting time of year and stay warm!!
Spaghetti Nests (Nidi di Spaghetti)
- Yield: 6 portions 1x
An easy spaghetti recipe that nestles meatballs in little spaghetti nests.
- • For the meatballs:
- o Extra-virgin olive oil
- o 1 medium onion, chopped
- o Salt
- o 3 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
- o Red pepper flakes
- o 1 large bunch broccoli rape
- o 1 pound ground beef
- o ½ pound ground sausage
- o 2 eggs
- o ½ cup breadcrumbs
- o ½ cup Parmigiano
- o About ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- • For the sauce:
- o Extra-virgin olive oil
- o 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- o ½ cup dry red wine
- o 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes with juice, chopped
- o About 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- o Salt and pepper
- • For the nests:
- o 1/2 pound spaghetti
- o ½ cup Parmigiano
- o Salt and pepper
- • In the pan in which you intend to fry the meatballs, drizzle a few tablespoons of oil. Add the onions over medium heat. Salt generously. Cook until the onions are just softened, about 5 minutes. Add about 2/3 of the chopped garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes. Sauté for another minute. Remove onions from heat. Transfer to the bowl in which you will mix the meatballs and allow to cool. Wipe pan clean.
- • Trim the tough ends of the broccoli rabe. Coarsely chop. In the same pan, drizzle a few more tablespoons of oil and heat over medium heat. Add in the chopped broccoli rabe and remaining chopped garlic. Salt generously. Sauté until tender. Remove from heat. Allow to cool and remove to cutting board. Finely chop broccoli rabe. Add to the onions.
- • Add the ground beef, ground sausage, eggs, breadcrumbs, Parmigiano and parsley to the bowl. Mix with hands. Season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands again. Test by frying a little patty. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
- • Using moistened hands, form the mixture into little golf-ball sized meatballs.
- • Coat the same pan you have been using with more oil and bring to medium heat. Add the meatballs and fry on all sides until browned. Remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat until all the meatballs are cooked.
- • Make the sauce: Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large pot or skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Add in the chopped tomatoes with their juices and parsley. Stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the meatballs and stir. Cover and simmer on low for about 15 minutes.
- • Cook the spaghetti until al dente, according to package directions. Combine the spaghetti with about ½ cup of sauce and the Parmigiano. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
- • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or oil a non-stick muffin pan. Using tongs, pick up some spaghetti and twirl into a muffin cup. Make a little indentation in the middle of each, forming a nest. Place a meatball in the center of each. Bake in the oven until the nests are set, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- • Remove the spaghetti nests from the pan and place on a serving platter. Top with additional sauce and Parmigiano and serve!
- Category: Pasta, Dinner
- Cuisine: Italian
Looks very comforting – I also like to savor the bitterness of broccoli rabe – and what a great view of the clock tower from your apartment!
Thanks for the comment, Karen! Hope all is well in Calabria! a presto, Michele
Michele I enjoy your posts and follow blog. Most interesting now is our mutual connection to Montalcino! We too own property there. Hope we can get in touch!!
Hi Teresa – thanks for the note! So great to hear about your connection to Montalcino! I would love to get in touch! Please drop me an email at email@example.com and we can share details….look forward to it! Grazie!!