Of all of the Food Network stars, Bobby Flay has always been my favorite.  Aside from his cute Irish-tough-guy looks, he is fun on camera and I love his food.  This recipe is from Throwdown!, his latest show.  Bobby lost this challenge to Mike Maroni, a restauranteur in Long Island who is famous for his meatballs, made from his grandmother's 100-year old recipe.

Growing up, we never had meatballs with spaghetti.  We usually just added browned ground beef to the sauce...and the sauce was never homemade.  Not that there is anything wrong with jarred sauce, especially Newman's Own Sockarooni Sauce.  Yum.

I was curious to taste a meatball that beat Bobby in a throwdown, so I thought I would give this recipe a try.  Dee-lish.  The meatballs were so flavorful and tender, not dry or tough like I imagined them to be.  The sauce was delicious, too.  JD commented that there was a bit too much garlic, but he still said the meatballs were awesome.  Me, I can never have too much garlic, but I'll probably tone it down a little the next time I make it for him.

Mike Maroni's Spaghetti and Meatballs
adapted from Bobby Flay's Throwdown!

Meatballs:
1 pound ground chuck
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 small onion, grated
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Sauce:
1/3 olive oil
1 head garlic, cloves minced
1 large onion, finely diced
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (or 2 quart jars home grown canned tomatoes, crushed, if you have them)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
handful basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush baking sheet with olive oil.

Combine all meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Roll mixture into meatballs, each about the size of a golf ball, and place on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through and browned.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 20 minutes.  Taste and add salt if necessary.  Remove from heat and stir in the basil leaves.  Add the meatballs to the sauce.

To serve, put some spaghetti on serving plate, and top with meatballs and sauce.

Spaghetti and Meatballs