Drunken Spaghetti With White Wine Marinara and Scotch-Infused Meatballs

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This recipe appeared as part of the second-place winner of ICSA XVI.

This is an invention of mine that combines two of my favorite recipes with a bit of an alcoholic twist. If you have not had pasta cooked in wine before, you're in for a real treat, let me tell you. This can be made vegetarian by skipping the meatballs and it is still awesome (I know because I have done it).

Here is what you will need:

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1 box spaghetti
1 big bottle of chardonnay (cheap stuff will do fine)
1 bottle of scotch (again, no need to get fancy unless you want to)

For the marinara:
1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes
1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
1/2 medium red onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh basil
4 tbs olive oil

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground sirloin
1 large egg
2 tbs fresh Parmesan
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 sprig fresh basil leaves
1/2 red onion
1 cup fine dried bread crumbs
2 cloves of garlic
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup scotch

Now then... here is where we are going:

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And here is how we get there...

First, you need to prepare your marinara to begin cooking. San Marzano tomatoes are important for all Italian cooking, almost without exception, so find and use them if at all possible. In mainstream grocery stores, Progresso will do in a pinch, but tomatoes marked San Marzano have the very best flavor for red sauce applications.

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Puree the tomatoes on low speed until they are all incorporated - not too much!

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Pour the puree into a saucepan. Don't start the heat up yet, we'll do that later.

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Now, you're gonna need a knife. Go get one. I will take this opportunity to show off my brand new "the ex" set of knives that my gf purchased me for xmas recently, and of course, as a bonus, our piggy bank, Lowtax!

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You're going to need to finely chop your 1/2 red onion and three garlic cloves. Set aside the other garlic and onion for the meatballs:

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Put these in a frying pan and add two tablespoons of olive oil. Stir this around a bit on medium heat and allow the garlic and onions to sweat.

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Once they begin to sweat, after maybe three or four minutes, add in about a 1/2 cup of your chardonnay.

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Add the sprigs of thyme, rosemary and basil to the sauce.

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Stir your onions and garlic with wine until they become translucent and smell delicious. About another four or five minutes.

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Then add them to your sauce and herbs, along with another two tablespoons of olive oil and salt and fresh ground pepper to taste:

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Now it's time to begin working on the meatballs. First chop up your parsley. You should end up with about 2 tablespoons worth.

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Now the basil and oregano, about a tablespoon each.

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Now chop the remaining half of your onion, and the two cloves of garlic.

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In a big mixing bowl, add the herbs, onion and garlic you have chopped up to these other ingredients: the egg, the bread crumbs, about 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan (you really can't add too much of this), about a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper (more to taste if you desire), along with the scotch, and 1/2 of the water (about 1/2 cup of water). When done, you'll have something that looks like this:

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Now then. Whisk all that up. When you're finished, you should have a slurry that looks something like this:

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And now, add your pound of sirloin.

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You need to mix all this up. Don't overwork it, meatballs are best when you don't over-knead them, just like meatloaf. By the way, this is an intentionally sticky recipe, so if your meatball mixture feels a bit more wet than you would expect, that is part of the yumminess of this dish. The meatballs are extremely tender and fluffy in this recipe. When you're done, you should have a heaving mass like this:

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Now then, roll these up into big honkin' meatballs. We don't do that pansy Swedish shit in this recipe - these are manly, near-baseball sized meatballs. They really are more like mini Italian meat loaves. Put them in a shallow pan for steaming. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of water over them thusly:

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It's time to start cooking. Stir your sauce to incorporate the spices, onions and garlic, and cover. Turn on medium heat to simmer. Once simmering, you can turn it down to lower heat. Turn the meatballs to medium heat also. This water will steam them as they cook alongside your sauce for 35 minutes. Keep stirring the sauce, leave the meatballs alone.

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About 15 minutes before your sauce and meatballs are complete, add the remaining chardonnay to a big pot.

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About this time add your can of tomato paste to your marinara. This thickens the marinara and gives it a richer, more intense flavor. The picture shows it just dumped in. Make sure to stir it in thoroughly.

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Once your wine has a rolling boil, add your pasta to it. The pasta will soak up the flavor of the chardonnay and give it an incredible taste you will not believe (even if it does smell kinda funny while cooking).

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One thing to mention here, you want to boil your pasta until it is al dente, meaning until it is tender, but still provides some resistance to your bite. Just remember, not soggy, but also, not at all hard. The wine may boil down before the pasta is al dente and if this happens you will want to add a cup or two of water to finish the job.

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When your sauce is done cooking, remove the sprigs of herbs.

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Your meatballs will have swelled up and become luscious and will smell absolutely unbelievable.

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Drain your pasta. Do not rinse. The starch is like gold.

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Plate it all together on a beautiful platter and garnish with more chopped parsley and freshly grated parmesan, and you have a unique dish that I guarantee will blow your mind. You could keep all of the ingredients separate and plate individually (to make leftovers more manageable), but I chose to plate the whole thing restaurant style:

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