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Dinner Together: Spaghetti-stuffed meatballs, just like Adam Hegested makes

Spaghetti-stuffed meatballs. (Lorie Hutson / The Spokesman-Review)
Spaghetti-stuffed meatballs. (Lorie Hutson / The Spokesman-Review)

I don’t get out much. And I’m not great at recreating restaurant dishes at home without help.

But when a friend asked whether I might be able to feature the recipe for the spaghetti-stuffed meatballs at The Wandering Table in Spokane, I knew I might have a shot.

You see, chef Adam Hegsted may be a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef Northwest, but he’s not one of those crabby, crass and impatient chefs you see on TV. He’s just a genuinely nice guy who wants nothing more than to see Spokane recognized for its evolving food scene. Hegsted is the executive chef and owner of the Wandering Table, the Gilded Unicorn, Eat Good Cafe in Liberty Lake and the Yards Bruncheon.

His playful approach to dishes makes for some cool surprises, but most are rooted in comforting and familiar cuisine. He quickly launched over a restaurant-sized version of the recipe for spaghetti-stuffed meatballs. It only took a few tweaks to make this fun and family-friendly dish accessible to home cooks.

It takes some work. There’s a reason most of the versions of this recipe you can find on the Internet call for turning out one monstrous stuffed meatball. But the result is worth the effort. My 10-year-old said, “I love these giant meatballs.” (They turned out about three times the size of the meatballs we usually make). Even the picky 13-year-old dug into this dish.

Hegsted’s recipe called for slow-cooked tomato sauce, so use your favorite recipe or if you’re a cheater (like me) any spaghetti sauce will do.

I also served the meatballs with the spaghetti sauce, instead of the red pepper paste in the recipe.

Spaghetti-Stuffed Meatballs

From Chef Adam Hegsted

For the stuffing:

1/2 pound spaghetti, dry

3 cups slow-cooked tomato or spaghetti sauce, still hot

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin, soaked in 1 tablespoon water

For the meatballs:

1/2 onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

2 eggs

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup parsley, chopped

2 cups bread crumbs

1/3 cup milk or cream

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Tabasco sauce, a dash or more to taste

1 tablespoon flour

1/3 cup water

To serve:

3 tablespoons red pepper paste

Italian parsley garnish or salad

Cook spaghetti following package instructions until al dente. Mix with warmed sauce. While still hot, mix in gelatin and water mixture. Spread the spaghetti and sauce in a 8-by-8 inch dish. Scoop into 1 1/2 -inch balls and freeze.

In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients. It works well to squish the mixture with your hands and knead the meat slightly. The mixture should be quite wet.

Wrap the sauce and noodle spheres in 2 ounces of the meatball mixture. Roll between hands smoothing out sphere and place onto an oiled sheet tray. Bake meatballs in a 425-degree oven for about 20-25 minutes or until cooked through, an internal temperature of 165 degrees. (Hegsted’s original recipe calls for blanching the meatballs in hot oil, if preferred.)

Serve cooked meatballs with red pepper paste, tomato or spaghetti sauce and parsley salad or garnish.

Yield: 6-8 servings