There's some rule-breaking involved, but I think you might approve . I'm not certain how I know this, but I'm almost sure that it is a firm rule of traditional Italian cookery that cheese and fish do not belong together. It is not even the thing to grate a little parm over your linguini with clam sauce. In this case, though, it's all for the best- I promise. What we have here is a more summery version of pasta with tomato sauce and "meatballs", wherein the meatballs are made from fresh tuna. And there is a little bit of parm in there. Unlike the sturdy, traditional winter version of spaghetti and meatballs, which it closely resembles, it is suitable for making, and eating, when it is 90F. I speak from experience; it's been damn hot.
I think this is a tasty combination- nice and unusual, not strange or off-putting. I've messed around with the underlying ideas to the point that I believe I have may have actually made something novel. Which I haven't done all that often, ever. Probably someone has already made it elsewhere- there's not all that much new under the sun food-wise and pasta sauce is a big area for fooling around. But I think it is pretty good, and that's the important thing, no? It's got that make-ahead feature, too- you can reheat the sauce when you are boiling the pasta. And even the leftovers were nice.
The "meatballs" would be good in a plainer homemade tomato sauce too. As you can see, the resemblance is-well I can hardly call it uncanny, since they are both spheres in a red sauce- but, well, close.You should probably tell any guests that it's tuna, so they won't be weirded out, expecting a meat taste, when the mouth says, "fish."
Here's how you make it:
Spaghetti with Tuna Meatballs in Fennel-scented Tomato Sauce with Chard and Raisins
First, you make the "Meatballs". You need:
1/2 lb fresh tuna
3/4 cup panko or homemade dried breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated parm
chopped fresh fennel fronds, parsley and mint, about 2 Tbsps all together
pinch fennel pollen (optional, but very good)
Put everything in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped, but not pasty. Make into as many meatballs as you like, and place them on a parchentlined tray or pan. This will make enough to serve three. If you are two, you can make 2/3 of the mixture into meat balls, and one into a patty, to saute or bake, and have on a bun. This is an extra-nice lunch for a cook making dinner for two. Chill in fridge until sauce is ready, at least an hour, to be sure they are firm.
Then you make the sauce:
3/4 cup chopped fennel bulb
a chopped garlic scape (they were in my farmbox) or a large clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup onion, leek, shallot, or combo thereof
1/2 tsp fennel seed
pinch fennel pollen (optional)
28 oz or so of chopped canned tomatoes (I like Muir Glen fire-roasted organic tomatoes, which I buy by the case these days)
1/2 dry red or white wine
few leaves fresh oregano if available
handful of raisins
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 bunch spinach, black kale, or swiss chard, cut into ribbons
juice of a lemon
Cook the fennel, garlic and oniony items until soft, in a bit of olive oil. Add everything else, except the chard, lemon and meatballs, bring to a boil, turn to simmer, and cook about an hour, until the sauce begins to darken. add the chard, and stir until it wilts. Add the meatballs gently, and poach until done through, about ten minutes, sirring in the lemon juice after about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning, and serve with plenty of spaghetti. You can cook the spaghetti while you finish the sauce, or cool the sauce, refrigerate it, and gently reheat it.
I haven't tried freezing it yet, but I'm going to soon. when you serve it, you can set the meatballs on a plate, or on the outside of individual pasta bowls, toss the sauce with the cooked spaghetti to coat, and then put the spaghetti in the middle of the plates, nudging the "meatballs" on top. It looks pretty sprinkled with fresh fennel fronds. IMHO. Once I added some capers, and that was nice, too.