Our cookery writer, Adam Bush, shares the personal inspirations behind some of his favourite – and most requested – recipes.
“Part of the reason that I have a career in food is thanks to my mum. She cooked us delicious and interesting meals, and introduced us to many different flavours at a young age. She is still, in fact, the person I call when something is going wrong with a recipe that I can’t explain – even though I’ve worked as a chef in countless restaurants, sometimes mum does know best.
This spaghetti and meatballs, really, is her recipe. She cooked it almost every other Friday when I was growing up, as we all loved it so much. And now I can enjoy it with a nice glass of red wine.
This dish may have its roots firmly in Italy, but you’d be hard pressed to find spaghetti and meatballs on a menu anywhere in the country. Meatballs, or ‘polpette’, are usually an antipasti – much smaller and eaten on their own. Spaghetti and meatballs was a dish created by Italian immigrants in the US: a combination of more income to spend on meat, and canned tomatoes becoming a 20th-century American staple.
I reckon most people have a pretty solid spag and meatballs recipe in their repertoire, but this one has a few tweaks to take yours up a few notches.
Firstly, make your own meatballs and give them some TLC. Get the best-quality mince you can (10% fat is ideal for keeping them juicy) and season it really well. The grated onion will keep the meatballs moist as they cook. Adding parmesan means added umami – that deeply savoury fifth taste. Frying them at the start and then cooking the sauce in the same pan, as well as poaching the meatballs in the sauce at the end, means all that meaty flavour stays in the sauce.
Now, I know using English mustard isn’t conventional but, I assure you, it works. Its fiery, deep flavour ensures the sauce packs a proper punch. It’s already an Italian/American fusion, so why not add a bit of English fire, too?