Bucatini with Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

We have been on a quest for the perfect meatball recipe for several months and I think last weekend we finally found it!  Previously we had made gluten-free meatballs, turkey meatballs, and ground beef meatballs based on recipes we found on the internet.  All of these came out fine but were lacking the wow factor (and yes, now I know that there can be a wow factor when it comes to meatballs!).  Ironically, after all of that searching on the world wide web we found the perfect recipe within the pages of our very own Cooks Illustrated The New Best Recipe book.  Page 253, to be exact.

These meatballs were decadent and were so tender that they were almost creamy.  The combination of ground chuck and ground pork was way better than the turkey (duh) and standard ground beef that we tried in previous attempts and the tomato sauce was tasty and thick.

Bucatini with Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

You will need:
For the meatballs…
2 slices White Bread, crust removed and slices torn into small pieces
6 tablespoons Plain Yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons fat free Half and Half
3/4 pound Ground Chuck
1/4 pound Ground Pork
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (or Parmesan/Romano Blend)
2 tablespoon minced Parsley Leaves
1 Egg Yolk
1 Garlic Clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon Salt
Pepper, to taste
1 cup Canola Oil, for pan-frying

For the tomato sauce…
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 28 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced Basil Leaves
Salt and Pepper

1 pound Bucatini Pasta, cooked according to package instructions

Combine the bread and yogurt mixture in a small bowl.  Mash together with a fork and let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until a paste forms.

Place the next eight ingredients (ground chuck through pepper) in a small bowl and add the bread-yogurt paste.  Mix together very gently (just as was the case with the guacamole-chipotle burgers, the lighter your touch, the more tender your end product will be!) and form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch diameter meatballs.  Press the meatballs together somewhat firmly to make sure they hold togethery during the cooking process. (Some of our very gently-formed meatballs fell apart but they were still delicious!)  You should end up with 10-14 meatballs.

Pan-Frying the Meatballs

Pour the canola oil into a large straight-sided skillet so that it is approximately 1/4″ deep.  Heat the pan over medium-high heat until the edge of a meatball browns if it is inserted into the oil.  Once the oil is hot enough, place the meatballs in the pan in a single layer.  Fry, turning several times, until the meatballs are evenly browned and slightly crispy on all sides (approx. 10 minutes).  Remove the meatballs from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.  Set aside.

Meatballs warming up in the Tomato Sauce

Discard the oil in the skillet but retain any browned bits of meatball.  Add the olive oil and garlic and saute until garlic becomes golden, approx. 30 seconds.  Add the crushed tomatoes, stir, and simmer until sauce thickens, approx. 10 minutes.  Stir in the basil, salt and pepper, then carefully add the meatballs.  Stir gently to coat the meatballs and then allow to simmer for about 5 minutes to reheat meatballs.

Spoon several spoonfuls of the sauce over your cooked Bucatini and stir well to coat the pasta.  Serve the pasta and top with meatballs and sauce.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Homemade Guacamole-Chipotle Burgers

Every January we go to Las Vegas for a week to exhibit at a big trade show.  Although this sounds like a great opportunity to let loose and go wild in Vegas, the reality is that after 9 1/2 hours of standing in a booth on a concrete floor (and with another 9 1/2 hours ahead of us the next day…) we typically find ourselves just looking for a solid meal that doesn’t involve walking through too many casinos.  After checking out many of the restaurants in our immediate area, we decided that our favorite place to eat was the Grand Luxe Cafe, conveniently situated right at the bottom of our hotel elevator at the Palazzo.

 The Grand Luxe Cafe’s menu is practically a small novel, boasting page after page of offerings from Italian, Asian, Mexican, and American cuisine.  Matt’s go-to dinner was the Avocado-Chipotle Burger which, according to the menu, is a “chop house burger topped with fresh avocado, fire-roasted poblano peppers, melted cheese, chipotle mayonnaise and cilantro.”  Yum!

With this description in mind, we set out to make our own version of this delicious dinner.  Judging by the look on Matt’s face as he bit into his burger tonight, I think we succeeded!

Burgers with Pepper Jack, Chipotle Mayo, Roasted Poblanos, Guacamole and Cilantro

Chipotle Mayo, Cilantro & Guacamole

You will need…
1 Poblano Chile Pepper
1/4 Cup Cilantro Leaves
1/4 Cup Guacamole
4 Slices Pepper Jack Cheese
2 Hamburger Buns, cut in half lengthwise and lightly toasted

For the Chipotle Mayonnaise…
1/3 Cup Mayonnaise
Juice from 1/2 Lime
1 Chipotle Pepper plus 1 Teaspoon Adobo Sauce (from a small can of Chipotles en Adobo)
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Poblano Peppers

For the burger patties…
3/4 – 1 pound Ground Chuck
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
Olive Oil Spray for the Grill


Heat your grill to medium-high heat.  Once hot, place the whole poblano pepper on the grill grates and allow it to roast for approximately 12 minutes, turning occasionally.  When the poblano skin is charred and starting to peel remove it from heat, place it in a glass bowl, and cover with a kitchen towel.  Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.  (This will loosen up the poblano skin and allow it to cool enough so that you can handle it.)

Transfer the poblano to a cutting board and peel off the outer skin with your fingers.  Cut the stem off and squeeze the seeds out.  Slice the pepper into 1/2″ squares and set aside.

Combine the chipotle mayonnaise ingredients in a small food processor and blend until the pepper is broken down into small pieces.  Transfer the chipotle mayonnaise into a bowl and set aside.

To make your burger patties, place the ground chuck in a shallow bowl and spread out slightly.  Add the salt and pepper evenly over the surface of the meat, then carefully mix the meat with your hands.  The key to a good burger is not to over-mix or over-compress the ground beef so mix gently!  🙂  Split the meat mixture in half and form each section into a very loose ball by transferring the meat back and forth between your hands.

Place both burger “balls” on a plate and press down gently to flatten them ever so slightly… your finished patty should be about 3/4″ thick and 4-5 inches in diameter.  Form a small indent (about 1/4″ deep) in the center of each patty.

Place the burgers, indent side up, on a preheated, oiled grill over direct high heat.  Close the lid and allow to cook for 2 1/2 minutes, then flip the burgers and allow to cook for 2 minutes.  Add the slices of pepper jack cheese to each burger and allow to cook (lid closed) for another minute.

While the burgers are grilling, spread some of the chipotle mayonnaise on the bottom of your hamburger bun and spread some guacamole on the top of the bun.  Place the cooked burgers onto the bun and top with roasted poblano peppers and cilantro.

We enjoyed our burgers with a side of Alexia Sweet Potato Chipotle Fries and a Dill-Cucumber Salad.  This was a pretty spicy meal so the cucumber had a very nice cooling effect.

Ready to eat!