I have a confession: Danny Taggart, the hero of Unleashed (#3 in my Gemini Men series) might be my favorite. I know, we authors are supposed to treat our characters like children and love them all the same if not differently.
But from the moment Danny popped onto the page, dark, broody, let’s face it, kind of an asshole, I was smitten. Blunt, to the point, and intense in his approach to everything. Including the way he cooks.
Readers first met Danny in the pages of Caught, the first of my Gemini Men books while he was banging around his father’s kitchen cooking Sunday dinner for his father and twin brothers, Ethan and Derek. On the menu:
Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs. Enjoy!
2 slices white sandwich bread (crusts discarded), torn into small cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk or 6 tablespoons plain yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 pound ground pork mixed with ground chuck (the butcher counter at your local store often features meatloaf mix which is good for this)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 large egg yolk
1 small clove garlic , minced (1 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon table salt
Ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for pan-frying (about 1 1/4 cups)
Smooth Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounce)
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves , minced
Ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Parmesan cheese fresh, grated
For the meatballs:
Combine bread and buttermilk in small bowl, mashing occasionally with fork, until smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes.
Place ground meat, cheese, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste in medium bowl. Add bread-milk mixture and combine until evenly mixed. Shape 3 tablespoons of mixture into 1½-inch-round meatball. (When forming meatballs use a light touch. If you compact the meatballs too much, they can become dense and hard.) You should be able to form about 14 meatballs. After shaping meatballs place on platter, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Pour vegetable oil into 10- or 11-inch sauté pan to depth of ¼ inch. Turn flame to medium-high. After several minutes, test oil with edge of meatball. When oil sizzles, add meatballs in single layer. Fry, turning several times, until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Regulate heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer browned meatballs to plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
Note: meatballs taste best when browned evenly on all sides. Their round shape makes this a challenge. The solution is to brown the two broader sides of the meatballs first and then use tongs to stand the meatballs on their sides. If necessary, lean the meatballs up against one another as they brown.
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in large pot for pasta.
For the sauce, discard oil in pan, leaving behind any browned bits. Add olive oil along with garlic; sauté, scraping up any browned bits, just until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, bring to boil, and simmer gently until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in basil; add salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and simmer, turning them occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Keep warm over low flame.
Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water. Cook until al dente, drain, and return to pot. Ladle several large spoonfuls of tomato sauce (without meatballs) over spaghetti and toss until noodles are well coated. Divide pasta among individual bowls and top each with a little more tomato sauce and 2 to 3 meatballs. Serve immediately with grated cheese passed separately.