“Mama Mia – that’s a spicy meatball!” – the exclamation leads to the belief that the fare hailed from Italy, but the origin of the meatball and the spaghetti and meatballs dish is unclear. We know that generally, households used leftover or unused parts of meat with day-old bread or bread crumbs to stretch their use over several days. The now-popular spaghetti and meatballs meal seems to have originated in the United States, as Italians normally did not make a practice of serving meat with their pasta, rather, they would cook meats and use the sauce from the meat to cover their pasta, a way of stretching their own meals.
Meatballs typically consist of ground beef, bread crumbs, parmesan, basil, parsley, garlic, eggs and olive oil. The dish normally includes marinara sauce and spaghetti as the form of pasta. Few innovators have attempted drastic twists to the meal, although marinara sauce itself has as many versions as there are cooks. However, I found a couple of surprises within the culinary world. Rachel Ray instructs viewers to create “Spaghetti-and-Meatball Meatballs”, an appetizer featuring meatballs that were rolled with broken or leftover spaghetti pieces and a marinara dipping sauce. “Inside-out Spaghetti and Meatballs” either excites or repels those who have seen the compelling photo making its way through the internet. An enormous meatball is stuffed with spaghetti, marinara sauce and ricotta cheese.
Enough of this wild talk. Let’s concentrate on pairing an old favorite with the appropriate wine. The team who took on the task comprises one Master Chef, one visitor center owner, one connoisseur and one wine writer.
Spaghetti with meat balls reminds me of the culinary trip to Venice with my husband, Chef Sir Roy Salazar. I enjoy a good, super-Tuscan Italian wine, like the 2004 Orbiao Super Tuscan - del Redi, with this dish. Most Italian wines have an acid element that helps cut through the fat in the meat balls, olive oil and parmigiano-reggiano cheese usually accompanying the dish. The Orbiao has great blackberry fruit from the low-yield grapes and light vanilla, due to the light toasting of the French oak barrels. The necessary acid in this wine cuts through the richness of the dish with elegance. Italy was great and Venice was a culinary hub at which to spend New Year’s. – Master Chef Julie Tan, Certified Master Chef, Sommelier and Taster; Chef Instructor, LeCordon Bleu San Francisco, CA.
I appreciate a simple marinara sauce for my spaghetti and meatballs. The sauce really claims the right to be matched above all other elements of the dish, and I believe the 2008 Vino Noceto Sangiovese is perfectly suited. The wine has bright cranberry, cherry-berry fruit with crisp acidity and is beautifully balanced. Although Vino Noceto makes several single block and specialty blends the “normale” is my go-to wine for most meals. The higher acidity of a tomato dish needs a wine that has acidity or it will turn flat and metallic. This wine will not try to steal the spotlight but will merely shine brightly on the classic dish and let its comforting flavors speak. Spaghetti and meatballs is like a hug from grandma: it is comforting and refreshing year after year. The ultimate comfort food and wine experience . . . simply timeless. – Gregg Lamer, Owner, Amador 360 Wine & Visitor Center, Plymouth, CA.
I enjoy my spaghetti and meatballs with a simple, pure tomato sauce. I like to use fresh tomatoes and garlic from the garden. This gives the dish a potent tomato flair and, as such, requires a wine like the 2007 Viticcio Chianti Classico. This young chianti has an earthy, herbal aroma with hints of black cherry. As sangiovese is a naturally tannic wine, the tannins in this wine are well blended throughout. The acidity naturally found in the tomatoes harmonizes with the acidity in the wine. Overall, the wine has an excellent, long finish that enhances the pure, beautiful taste left from the spaghetti and meatballs. – Heather Young, Wine Connoisseur, Napa, CA.
My spaghetti and meatballs must be topped with parmesan cheese. The combination of tartness from the marinara sauce and creaminess from the cheese demands a wine that can meet both pairing challenges. I love the GV Cellars Market Merlot. The wine is full of vibrant fruit, but maintains merlot’s typical soft character, both necessary for this dish. Each of these features will contrast, as well, with the opposing ingredients. The winemaker notes flavors reminiscent of Royal Anne cherries coupled with sweet mocha. “Elegantly textured flavors fill the mid-palate with firm yet soft tannins driving the extended finish.” I’ll say! It’s tough to believe this well-dressed wine is only $15 per bottle. A scrumptious old-faithful dish paired with an affordable wine. – Paula Barker, Wine Writer, IntoWine.com, Santa Ana, CA.