For the meatballs:
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
- 2 teaspoons fennel seed (about 2/3 palmful)
- Salt and pepper
- A couple pinches of ground cloves
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
- 1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 3/4-1 cup breadcrumbs
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for liberal drizzling
- 1 large egg
For the savory tomato sauce:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely fresh oregano or marjoram, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
- 1 can San Marzano tomatoes (28 ounces)
- A couple of pinches of ground cloves
- 1 large fresh bay leaf
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 pound spaghetti or whole grain spaghetti
- Pecorino cheese, for grating
- Finely chopped mint and parsley, for garnish
- Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
- Combine the meatball ingredients in a bowl. Roll into small balls and roast on a baking sheet until golden and cooked through, 12-15 minutes. Wash your hands after handling the raw meat.
- For the tomato sauce, heat EVOO, two turns of the pan, in a large skillet or saucepot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and season with oregano, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, 10 minutes or so. Stir in the tomato paste, 1 minute, then add the wine or stock and stir for a minute more. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with spoon or masher, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Let the sauce reduce for 30 minutes over low heat. Remove the bay and cinnamon stick.
- Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water to al dente. Drain and place the pasta back in the hot pot; toss with the sauce and the meatballs. Serve in shallow bowls with Pecorino cheese, mint and parsley on top.
Cooking with alcohol enhances the flavors of certain dishes. Some of the alcohol burns off in the process of cooking. If you are concerned about using alcohol when you cook, you may use the appropriate substitute listed in the ingredients.