You guys! If you are looking for a dish to showcase your cooking prowess, this is it. This light and fresh punttanesca sauce can be whipped up quickly using ingredients that you most likely already have in your pantry. Before I dig into the recipe, let’s have a little history lesson. Punttanesca sauce was first developed by Italian “ladies of the night.” They would prepare it for their lovers after a late night rendezvous using whatever ingredients they could find in the pantry. The recipe needed to be simple, and it had to be quick. Pasta is always a crowd-pleaser. Hence, this spicy, salty pasta dish was born.
Traditional punttanesca sauce is usually served with plain noodles. But I like to have something a little more substantial than just sauce and noodles. Maybe that’s the Midwesterner in me. My husband really loves meatballs, so I decided to put my meatball game to the test. I’ve made countless meatballs over the past decade. All of them different, all of them “just ok.” These meatballs, however, were out of this world! Crispy on the outside, yet tender on the inside. Dear husband said these were the best meatballs he’s ever ate. The secret to these perfect meatballs is:
- Using ground oats instead of regular bread crumbs,
- The addition of ricotta cheese, and
- Purchasing the ground chuck directly from the butcher vs. already wrapped in cellophane in the meat section. Maybe it is all in my head, but I swear that the meat is more tender and definitely fresher this way.
Even after I browned the meatballs in a skillet to achieve that crispy, crunchy exterior that is so satisfying to bite into, the inside remained tender and delicate. Honestly, I even impressed myself 🙂 We enjoyed the spicy, salty punttanesca sauce and meatballs over zucchini noodles, or zoodles as they’re called. Zoodles don’t weigh our stomachs down the way regular noodles sometimes can. If you’ve never tried zucchini noodles before, make this the first time you do. These meatballs and this punttanesca sauce are so flavorful, I bet you won’t be able to tell the difference :).
Upon perusing the list of ingredients or cooking method, you may think this recipe is too difficult and/or time-consuming. Let me tell you, it’s not. I pushed some of the recipe prep into a part of the day when I had more time (aka nap time) and mixed and browned the meatballs in the skillet then. This streamlined the dinner process tremendously. The only thing I had left to do to complete the meal was prepare the sauce (15 minutes), cook the zoodles (5 minutes) and finish the meatballs in the oven (20 minutes). I also made a double batch of meatballs, and put them in the freezer. (This is what I mean when I say, “intentional cooking.” It’s always nice to have home-cooked meatballs on hand for a busy weeknight. Whether over pasta or on a hoagie, these meatballs are just as delicious the second time around.)
I hope you try this recipe. It’s amazing. Pour some wine, turn on some music and get in the kitchen 🙂