Spaghetti and meatballs is an iconic Italian-American dish that’s as warm, cozy, and comforting as they come. But it’s not exactly fancy fare. Splatters of red sauce, meatballs of varying quality (we admit to sometimes breaking out the frozen kind, and you can find some really good vegan meatballs these days too), tangles of spaghetti – it’s delicious, but not exactly date-night material. So when we saw that Giada De Laurentiis had posted a fancier meatball recipe, inspired by her travels to Italy with Bobby Flay in the Discovery+ show Bobby and Giada in Italy, we knew we had to try them the next time we were craving something chic.
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They’re her mortadella meatballs with pistachio pesto, and instead of mingling with unweildy strands of spaghetti, they’re served on a bed of fresh, peppery arugula.
De Laurentiis says that they’re based off of the mortadella pistachio meatballs she always orders at the restaurant Dilla in Rome, and she and Bobby Flay got to see how the restaurant makes the meatballs when they were filming their show. De Laurentiis says that the mortadella makes these meatballs extra succulent, and that the pistachio pesto is “sweet, creamy and herbaceous.” Sounds like perfect date night fare to us.
The meatballs are made with ground pork and diced mortadella, which you should be able to buy at any well-stocked grocery store deli counter or specialty Italian market. Mortadella is a decadent emulsified sausage, like bologna, with rich bites of pork fat throughout. When it cooks, the fat renders out, which gives these meatballs their incredibly juicy bite.
The sauce is a blend of raw pistachios
, basil, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, as well as some cold water to help your food processor keep moving.
The end result of the dish? Mouthwateringly tender, savory meatballs, covered in a creamy, nutty pesto that adds a bright herbal flavor to your meal. Served on a bed of arugula and with a glass of sparkling wine, these meatballs are definitely worthy of a special occassion.
Before you go, check out our gallery below:
Watch: How to Make Giada De Laurentiis’ Stuffed Lasagna Rolls