Last week, while searching for inspiration on what to write about, I came across a half used bottle of Grumpy’s BBQ Sauce in my fridge. A packet of spaghetti noodles waved at me from the pantry. Hmm. Deep smoky spiciness mixed with tomatoes, garlic, and onions? Sounded delicious to me. There was some ground beef in the fridge as well, the perfect excuse to try something that I’ve wanted to do for awhile. Smoking some meatballs.
My wife wasn’t impressed with the idea of BBQ and spaghetti, but I’m happy to say that after tasting the dish she admitted complete defeat.
Spaghetti with Smoked Meatballs and BBQ Sauce
2 slices of bread, torn into small pieces. Any type will do, I used multigrain with seeds, which gave a bite to the meatballs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 pound ground beef, or other meat
1/3 cup grated cheese. The stronger the better, I used cheddar
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon garlic powder. I would have used a fresh clove minced, but I was out.
2/3 teaspoon of salt
3/4 teaspoon salt Black pepper, good pinch, or ideally, freshly ground
BBQ Tomato Sauce:
2 Tablespoon Oliver Oil
1 Large onion, diced. Feel free to add more, they only improve the sauce.
1 teaspoon garlic powder. Again, if you have a close use that, minced.
1/3 Cup bbq sauce. I used Grumpy’s bold bbq sauce 1 can of tomatoes
1 pound spaghetti noodles. I used extra thick tubular noodles.
Freshly grated cheese, for serving
Step 1: Starting the BBQ or Gas Grill
I used a Weber with charcoal and wood chips to smoke these meatballs.
If you don’t have a charcoal bbq them you can use your gas grill to smoke with this method:
Put about a cup of wood chips, soaked for 30 mins, onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Fold the foil around the chips so they are enclosed in a pouch. Now turn the packet over and poke around 10 or more holes into the foil, so the smoke can escape. This can be put under the grate, just on top of the burner shield, holes facing up.
Whatever you use, you will need to:
1. Soak the woodchips for 30 mins
2. Preheat the grill or start the charcoal The meatballs should be cooked with indirect heat, so if you are using charcoal make sure they are moved to the side of the bbq. On a gas grill, you can preheat it with all the burners so it heats up faster, but before putting the meat on be sure to turn off the burner that will be under them.
Step 2: Preparing the Meatballs
1. Mix the bread and buttermilk together in a bowl and let the bread absorb the liquid for around 10 minutes, giving it a stir occasionally. You want it to become paste-like.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the ground meat, cheese, parsley, egg, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and bread-buttermilk mixture. Make sure to mix this very thoroughly.
3. Now it’s time to make the meatballs! You want them around 1 1/2 inches around, and make sure to be gentle when shaping the them. They shouldn’t be squeezed until they’re very firm. There should be about 14 meatballs when you finish.
Step 3: Smoking the Meatballs
1. Your grill should be hot now and the wood chips should have been soaking for at least 30 minutes.
2. Put the wood chips in the BBQ or Grill
3. Put the meatballs on the grate or grid, be sure they are not over direct heat. I had trouble with them slipping through on my Weber, so I put them on a cast iron pan and put that pan on the BBQ. You could also use aluminum foil if you have the same trouble.
4. Put the lid on and cook until an instant read thermometer 160 degrees F .
Step 4: Preparing Sauce and Noodles
While the meatballs are cooking, you can get the sauce started.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a tablespoon of salt. When this is boiling, add the noodles and cook until al dente. Drain.
2. Pour the oil into a pan, heat up, then add the onions. To speed up the cooking, sprinkle them with a generous pinch of salt. This will help them release their juices faster and allow them to soften and begin caramelizing. How long to cook the onions is up to you. Anywhere from just soft, to fully caramelized. In my opinion, the more caramelized they get the better the sauce is. Just don’t let them burn. Keep a glass of water by the pan in case they start sticking. This way can pour a little water in and they will come off the bottom, without the sticky residue burning.
3. Once the onions are cooked as you like, add the garlic (if you’re using fresh garlic, let it cook for 30 seconds before adding the other ingredients), bbq sauce, and tomatoes. Cook this until the sauce has thickened and the tomatoes have melded in. Around 20 mins, but it depends on the temperature you’ve cooked it at. If it thickens too much you can thin it with some water, more tomatoes, bbq sauce, etc.
4. Salt and Pepper to taste. Don’t forget, it’s very important!
Put some noodles in a bowl and top with the sauce. Top the sauce with some meatballs, and sprinkle the entire thing with the grated cheese.