I am going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. This edition of Dinner & A Movie is in honor of the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest films ever made – one that everyone should watch or rewatch – The Godfather. Wow, how time flies– the Godfather is turning 40 (the same age as Half Price Books!) With a 3-hour movie ahead of us here, we better get started on dinner.
What else are you going to serve alongside a film about the Italian mob? Spaghetti and meatballs, of course. I love to cook, but instead of one of my home recipes, I am turning to a chef a bit more popular than me – Emeril Lagasse. But just because he is a world famous chef doesn’t mean the recipe is difficult. It’s super easy and a crowd-pleaser. Once you make it the first time following the recipe, you’ll feel safe to venture out, change it up, and make it your own. I find that when the recipe calls for the cajun seasoning, your favorite store-bought brand will work just fine, and I personally double or triple the garlic, but that is just me. This is a great standby meal to have in your bag of tricks for any night of the week.
10 cups Simple Tomato Sauce for Pasta, recipe follows, or store-bought pasta sauce.
For the meatballs:
- 1 large egg
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
For the pasta:
- 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente according to package directions
- Salt, for seasoning cooking water
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Place the Basic Red Sauce in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Place all the remaining meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir well with a wooden spoon to combine, then form the meat into balls by rolling about 2 tablespoons of meat between your hands. Place meatballs on a plate as they are formed. (Hint: if your hands are slightly damp, the meatballs will roll more easily and will not stick to your hands!) When all the meatballs are formed, gently place the balls into the sauce one at a time using a long handled spoon. Be careful – bubbling sauce splatters! Simmer the sauce uncovered, and allow the meatballs to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes before stirring. Stir the meatballs into the sauce when they rise to the top.
Simmer for an additional 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. While sauce is simmering, cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Strain and toss with the olive oil. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Simple Tomato Sauce for Pasta:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (1 medium)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves garlic)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 (3-inch piece) Parmesan rind
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
Heat the olive oil in a 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, salt, crushed red pepper, oregano and black pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft, about five minutes. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and squeeze to break into small pieces. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and sugar to the pot with the onions, and stir well. Add the Parmesan rind. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally with a long-handled wooden spoon, until flavors have come together and sauce is thickened. Stir in the basil and let sit for 10 minutes before using.
Remove from the heat, and use as needed. You can store this sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, or freeze it for up to three months. Yields: 10 cups or 2 1/2 quarts.
Of course, we are watching The Godfather, which won the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor awards in 1972. It was also nominated for eight other awards, which tells you what a power house of a movie it really is. First let me suggest to you, if you are watching the movie on DVD and have a Blu-Ray player, sell your used DVD to HPB, then pick up the Blu-Ray. The high-definition is worth every penny, and you will be glad you upgraded. Scenes that were once a bit murky have been remastered – blacks are richer and colors are picture-perfect.
Enough about the technical side. No matter how you are watching it, this film is a piece of Americana and pop culture. So much so that it is referenced in other films, too. Remember Billy Crystal and the rest of cast in City Slickers II humming the theme to The Godfather as they search the cave? Tom Hanks quotes “going to the mattresses” and talks about scenes from The Godfather while chatting with Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.
The movie is about the Corleone family, headed up by the Godfather himself, Don Corleone, played brilliantly by Marlon Brando. After surviving several assassination attempts, the quiet straight-laced war vet, Michael (Al Pacino) decides he should be the one to take revenge and sets off gang war. You’ll have to watch it yourself if you want to find out how it ends. I don’t want to give away too much for those watching it for the first time. You’re in for quite a ride!
So, get the spaghetti and meatballs and an old vine zinfandel or good bottle of chianti and start up the movie! Salute! — Jim