Missy Robbins' Spaghetti and Meatballs
Plus: The Concord Cheese Shop, Pyrexmania, and My First Chicken Pot Pie.
I’m writing to you from Concord, Massachusetts where I’m visiting Craig while he’s in pre-production for his next feature. On Friday there was a massive snowstorm (you may have heard about it in the news) so, thankfully, I changed my ticket at the last minute and flew in the day before. Friday things were mostly closed, so we hunkered down and watched the news from the Ukraine as everything was unfolding.
If you don’t already, I recommend following food writer Olia Hercules on Instagram. She’s from the Ukraine and is fundraising for the soldiers there, including her brother, while sharing images and videos of her family. It’s a sobering way to experience the news: it makes it all so much more human and specific and vital. She’s currently working on a charity called #cookforukraine, so I’ll be following along and donating what I can.
The Recipe: Missy Robbins’ Spaghetti and Meatballs
Back in my little world in L.A., I’m still without an oven (we thought it was a gas issue, but the gas company said it was a plumbing issue related to them turning off the gas? So it’s still a gas issue but a plumber has to fix it?) and my friends Drew, Jimmy, and Raef were coming over for dinner. So once again I had to concoct a stovetop dinner that would happily feed a crowd.
Enter: Missy Robbins’ new Pasta cookbook. I bought the book to inspire me to make fresh pasta; then, funny enough, I did make fresh pasta, twice!, but I didn’t use her recipe (I’m reading her book slowly). Instead, the recipe that grabbed me on the day I was hosting the dinner was her recipe for spaghetti and meatballs.
I’m not sure what it was: her meatball recipe isn’t that unique (it involves soaking bread in milk, though I used water because one of my guests was lactose intolerant). Maybe it’s the abundance with which she flavors the meatballs that drew my interest: there’s sautéed onions and garlic, two kinds of meat (beef and pork), 1/2 cup of Pecorino and 1/2 cup of Parmesan, a whole tablespoon of fennel seeds, another tablespoon of red chile flakes, and a whole teaspoon and a half of garlic powder. I took the liberty of adding lots of chopped fresh parsley because I like the way it looks and the freshness it brings.
As for the process, it’s as simple as this: you combine all of the meatball ingredients and refrigerate. You make a big pot of simple tomato sauce. You shape the meatballs (I used an ice cream scoop), then you refrigerate again so they hold together. Missy has you bake them in the oven; as mentioned, I didn’t have an oven, so I fried them in a skillet (which, frankly, is a bit more decadent) and then you plop them in the sauce. I cooked gently until a thermometer read 160 and then I turned off the heat and left them sit there, covered, as my guests arrived.
When it was time to serve, I scooped out the meatballs, boiled bucatini (reveal: this wasn’t actually spaghetti!), scooped out some of the sauce so it wouldn’t be overdressed, then finished cooking the bucatini in the sauce. Twirled it all on to plates, topped with the meatballs, and sprinkled with lots of cheese and more chopped parsley.
What can I say? Sometimes the simplest things are the best. Give this one a go: whatever sauce you don’t use, you can turn into eggs in purgatory the next day. Here’s a printable recipe (!!) for you to read and print at your leisure. Here’s hoping it gets stained red.
The Restaurant: The Concord Cheese Shop
Have you ever seen the movie State & Main? Okay, it’s been years since I’ve seen it, but as I remember, it’s about a Hollywood production descending on a small town and wreaking havoc.
It came to mind yesterday as we were ordering cheese at the cheese counter of the adorable Concord Cheese Shop here in Concord, Mass when one of Craig’s producers appeared and they started talking shop. Meg, the woman helping me, asked if we were making a movie and I said, “I’m not, but they are.” She told me Little Women was filmed in Concord which makes sense because Louisa May Alcott wrote it a few miles away (the book, not the movie. Greta Gerwig lives in the West Village).
We were choosing some cheese to snack on later that day. Of course Craig, a cheese nut, asked for something stinky and funky and unique. Meg pulled this one out.
That’s Ameribella from Indiana, a raw cow’s milk cheese that definitely brang in the noise, brang in the funk. (I could smell it from a mile way.)
On the gentler side, was this chèvre.
What can I say? I’m a goat cheese guy. This one was my favorite.
We also got a hard cheese.
This one was nutty and reminded me a bit of a Gruyere.
I was proud of myself for putting together this cheese plate back at Craig’s AirBnb.
We paired it with an orange wine that we also picked up at the Concord Cheese Shop.
Now I get it when people talk about food shopping when they travel. When in Concord, do as the Concordians do: eat cheese.
The Rest: Pyrexmania, My First Chicken Pot Pie, and Links.
While walking around Concord, I happened into an antique shop — Thoreauly Antiques (get it? Thoreau’s from around here) — where they had a luscious wall of Pyrex.
I mostly use big metal bowls when I mix things together or make a salad, but suddenly I was struck with inspiration: I should be doing that in a vintage Pyrex!
I went down an Etsy rabbit hole (warning: do NOT under any circumstances go on to Etsy and search “vintage Pyrex”; it’s a gateway drug) and wound up falling in love with the bowls you see two pictures up. Those little birds? The bright orange?
But they were charging $180 for those three and they’re teeny tiny; not the kind of bowls I’d actually use. So I wound up buying this set for much less money:
That bowl on the bottom is a classic 404: it holds 4-quarts. It’s a real beaut and it’ll be wrapped up and at my door by the time I get back to L.A. (I plan to go back to the thrift shop to supplement, of course.)
Another rabbit hole I went into on this trip is the chicken pot pie rabbit hole. In the sense that — believe it or not — I’d never had a chicken pot pie before and it was on the menu at The Colonial Inn.
People on Instagram were shocked that I’d never had a chicken pot pie before, but I really hadn’t. Maybe it’s a Jewish thing? Because of the no meat and dairy thing (butter in the crust)? Not that my family abides by that, but it could be a reason it wasn’t served at Jewish sleep-away camp, etc.
Anyway, I really dug this concept: pie crust on top of a savory mix of chicken and vegetables in a creamy sauce? The best part was dipping the crust in what Craig calls “the goo.” I’d love to try to make this at home.
The best dish I’ve had here, though, has to be the baked scrod with Ritz crackers and a buttery lemon sauce. It was so New England and oh so excellent.
When I get back, I’ll have to work on my scrod bod.
Here are some links for you!
Pizzeria Bianco is opening in LA! Wait, didn’t that happen already? I’m confused (Eater LA);
Rachel Roddy’s guide to Rome… bookmarking this for when I finally go to there (House and Garden);
I’m a paid subscriber of Bill Clark’s newsletter and these coconut date oatmeal cookies are worth the price of admission (A Piece of Cake).
That’s all for this week folks!
In case you missed it, last week’s paid subscribers had access to my essay “Are All New Restaurants the Same Restaurant,” my exclusive podcast 10 Bonus Questions with Matt Rodbard, and two community threads, including this one all about cooking Brussels sprouts (156 likes so far!).
If you want to join the fun, here’s a discount code that gets you 20% off FOREVER, and you’ll have access to this week’s bonus questions with podcast guest Andy Baraghani, plus threads about the new season of TOP CHEF.
Until next time!