Grilled Pasta with Grilled Meatballs from Michael Chiarello’s Live Fire Cookbook
Serves 8 as a first course
This is an old-school pasta cooked a new-school way. Grilling the pasta makes it entirely new, adding a smoky flavor and the occasional browned crunchy bit of pasta, which is delicious. For my Harvest Dinner, because I was cooking pasta for 100 people, I vac-packed the meatballs the night before the party. I’ve given instructions for this method of cooking for those of you who have vac-pack equipment; it’s a great way to cook for a crowd. Don’t worry if you don’t have sous-vide equipment or a vac-packer; we’ve also included steps for cooking meatballs the usual way. This recipe makes a lot of meatballs. You can halve it if you like; I never mind having some meatballs in my fridge the next day.
2 pounds ground sirloin
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
2 cups finely ground dried bread crumbs
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water, plus more if needed
5 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound dried spaghetti
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Grilled Tomato Sauce (see recipe below)
4 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
In a large bowl, mix together the meat, eggs, cheese, parsley, oregano, basil, onion, bread crumbs, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of the water. Knead the water into the meat mixture with your hands. Knead and form meatballs into about 11/2-inch balls with a 2-ounce scoop (see Chef’s Note) or roll into balls with your hands.
VAC-PACKED COOKING METHOD: Seal the meatballs with just a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil and cook them in 130°F water for 35 minutes.
OLD-WORLD COOKING METHOD: Place the meatballs in a large saucepan or skillet on the stove (use 2 pans if they don’t all fit in a single pan), add 1/2 cup of the water over them (1/2 cup water to each pan if using 2 pans), and cover. Steam the meatballs over medium heat for about 25 minutes. Transfer to a platter and refrigerate until you’re ready to grill them.
Turn a gas grill to high or ignite charcoal. When the grill is hot, for both gas and charcoal grills, clean your grill rack. Decrease the temperature to medium-high (on a gas grill only), and brush or wipe a little olive oil on the grill rack. In batches, grill the meatballs in a cast-iron pan or plancha on the grill until they’re well-browned all the way around, 4 minutes total for the vac packed meatballs and about 6 minutes total for the pan-cooked meatballs. Remove from the heat and reserve.
Fill a large pot with about 5 quarts of water, add the kosher salt, and bring to a boil over high heat on your stove. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
Spread the pasta on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, so it won’t stick together.
Lightly oil a long, flat grill basket or spritz with nonstick cooking spray. With tongs, add half the pasta to the basket, arranging it in a thin even layer. (If you have two grill baskets, cook both batches of pasta at once.) Place the basket on a rack over hot coals and turn frequently, until the pasta turns a golden color. You’ll hear it crackling during grilling.
Empty the grill basket into a large heat-proof bowl. Toss the pasta with 1 to 2 cups of Grilled Tomato Sauce. If it needs some moisture, add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and toss again. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of the pecorino cheese. Toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with the remaining pecorino cheese, and serve immediately.
Chef’s Note: It’s so much faster to make a meatball with a scoop than with your hands. Scoops make such quick work of certain tasks—shaping meatballs, gougères, or cookie dough, for example—that I keep a variety of scoop sizes at home as well as at work. If you don’t have a 2-ounce scoop for the meatballs, try using a 1/4-cup measure instead. You’ll find scoops in most restaurant- supply stores or cookware stores.
Grilled Tomato Sauce
Makes about 3 1/2 cups
Grilling the tomatoes and roasting the red pepper gives this sauce an underlying flavor that I really like. I tend to double this recipe and freeze what I don’t need. I’m always glad to have this sauce on hand. It’s best to grill tomatoes over charcoal or a wood fire that’s about 30 minutes past its hottest point. I like to use a plancha but you can use a cast-iron pan or grill the tomatoes directly on the grill rack.
3 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes
1 large red bell pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Core the tomatoes and cut an X through the skin on the bottom of each. In a bowl, toss the tomatoes and bell pepper with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; season with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Place the tomatoes on the grill, X-side up and away from direct heat, with the red pepper. Cover the grill and cook, turning the bell pepper to char evenly all over. Cook the tomatoes for 8 to 10 minutes. When the bell pepper’s skin is blistered and blackened all the way around (about 15 minutes), put the pepper in a bowl and cover to steam and loosen the skin. Take the tomatoes off the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Peel the grilled vegetables. Halve the tomatoes horizontally and squeeze out the seeds into a sieve suspended over a bowl to catch the juices. Finely chop the tomatoes. Return the tomato pulp and any juices from the chopping board to the bowl holding the tomato juices.
Seed the bell pepper and slice off the ribs; discard the seeds and ribs. Finely dice the bell pepper; set aside. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast-iron skillet (if you’re cooking at the grill) or in a large sauté pan (if you’re working at your stove) over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and stir. Add the tomatoes and their juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the bell pepper and simmer for another minute. Add the vinegar. Season to taste with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and finish with parsley.
Keep warm until ready to serve or let cool, cover, and refrigerate. Store this in an airtight container in your fridge for 4 to 5 days or in your freezer for up to 2 months.
Yield: 4 servings
4 bone-in chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons Fennel Spice Rub, recipe follows, or fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
2 cups grape juice
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup halved seedless red grapes
Fennel Spice Rub:
1 cup fennel seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons white peppercorns
3 tablespoons kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Season the chicken with gray salt and fennel spice, pressing the spice into the chicken breasts.
In a deep-sided oven-proof skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and saute for 3 minutes to brown. Place the pan in the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and turn the chicken over and place skin side up on a baking sheet. Return chicken to the oven until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pieces to a platter.
Using the same pan used for the chicken, add the shallot to the fat in the pan. Add salt and pepper, cook for 2 minutes. Add the chopped rosemary and let sweat for 1 minute, then add the grape juice. Reduce by half and add the chicken stock. Reduce the sauce by half again, for about 1 cup of sauce. Add the grapes and cook just to heat through, about 1 minute.
Spoon the grapes and sauce over the chicken and garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary.
Fennel Spice Rub:
Put the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in a heavy pan over medium heat. Watch carefully, tossing frequently so the seeds toast evenly. When light brown and fragrant, pour the seeds onto a plate to cool. They must be cool before grinding, or they will gum up the blades.
Pour the seeds into a blender or spice grinder and add the salt. Blend to a fine powder, shaking the blender/grinder occasionally to redistribute the seeds. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.
Yield: 1 1/4 cups