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
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