Cheesy Spaghetti Balls

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Food memories. I always find it amazing how food can stir up so many emotions and memories; a certain taste or smell, can take you back in time, remind you of a loved one, reminisce an occasion. These spaghetti balls do just that for me.  As a child I remember for all the parties that took place at home, the preparations would begin early in the morning and go on till the evening and the entire house would be permeated with the aromas of the various curries and vegetables being cooked, all vegetarian of course.  There would be frenzied activity all day and a sense of excitement for us kids. These spaghetti balls, fried and hot were to be served as snacks with drinks. I remember my mother and grandmother, sitting in the kitchen on moodies (low stools made of jute) with huge thaals on the floor and shaping the spaghetti mixture into perfectly round balls one after the other, all the while giving out instructions to the cook and helpers for the other dishes being prepared. I never really had the urge to help out in the actual cooking, but I loved going into the kitchen to see what was happening, it was the centre of all activity; Mumma and Amma would be hard at work, cooking and dishing out orders and in between all the do’s and don’ts, tidbits of gossip would be exchanged. By the evening things would have somewhat  settled down in the kitchen, the focus having shifted to the dining room, shifting the furniture, bringing out the crockery and linen, laying the table and by the time the guests arrived, Mumma and Amma would be ready in their printed colourful chiffon sarees, draped such that it covered their head at all times, matching glass bangles and a red bindi adorning the forehead, welcoming, smiling and calm as if the hectic morning had never happened; I still don’t know how they managed to do that.

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When the spaghetti balls, fried and piping hot, were served, kids and adults alike enjoyed their cheesiness and recipe requests almost always followed, especially from mothers who were dealing with fussy eaters; this always brought immense pleasure and satisfaction to both ladies, I guess they felt like all their hard work had paid off. Although there was a time when these spaghetti balls were made for almost all the dinners we hosted, as it often happens, with time recipes get forgotten for newer, trendier food; I guess that’s what happened to this recipe as well.

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You can imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this recipe as I was going through a really old Tarla Dalal cookbook. I couldn’t believe I was actually reading the recipe for a childhood favourite snack that I hadn’t remembered or eaten in years. Just reading the recipe brought back so many memories for me so making it and eating it was like going back in time, how I wish Mumma was still around so I could share this with her; it’s always the small things, times like these when I miss her the most.

Though these simple little spaghetti balls might not have the same emotional effect on you, rest assured you will love it; cheese and spaghetti – you just can’t go wrong. What I also love about this recipe is that it can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator, what is even better is that this can be done at various stages so you can choose what suits you best. You can make the white sauce, mix all the ingredients and store the mixture or shape it into balls and then store it or go all the way and store the balls once coated with the breadcrumbs, this way all you have to do the next day is fry it up and serve. This recipe will yield about 20 balls depending on the size.

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Ingredients

  • Spaghetti (boiled)- 2 cups
  • Milk- 2 cups
  • Butter- 50 grams
  • All purpose flour- 6tbsp
  • Cheddar cheese (grated)- 100 grams
  • Green chilies- 3-4
  • Fresh coriander- a handful
  • Salt- ½ tsp
  • Additional ¼ cup flour for the paste
  • Water- 1/2 cup
  • Bread crumbs- ½ cup
  • Vegetable oil- for deep frying

Instructions

  1. In a heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter; add 6 tbsp of flour and cook for minute or so to get rid of the taste of raw flour.
  2. Add the milk and keep cooking, whisking continuously, until the mixture becomes very thick, almost a lump. This will take a little time, just keep whisking, you’ll get there.
  3. Add the cheese to the white sauce and mix. Finely chop the green chilies (remove seeds if you wish, I didn’t) and the coriander.
  4. Once the white sauce has cooled, add the cooked spaghetti (you can cut up the noodles if you want, it makes it easier to mix) and the green chilies and coriander. Taste for salt and add only if required.
  5. Mix it well, it will be quite sticky, and I found chilling the mix helps with the stickiness. Make lemon sized balls. Lightly grease your palms with oil to help shape the balls easily.
  6. Mix the ¼ cup flour with ½ cup water to make a thin paste. Dip the balls in the flour paste and then roll in breadcrumbs; make sure the balls are coated well and evenly with the breadcrumbs.
  7. In a pan of suitable size, heat the oil and deep fry the balls to a deep golden brown.

Notes

*Use any spaghetti you like, I used Capellini, a very thin spaghetti, only because that’s what I had lying around.

*I used low fat milk; again because that’s what I had in my fridge, any milk would do, same with the butter, salted or unsalted, both work.

*You can add finely chopped celery or onions; I didn’t have any so I didn’t.

*I rolled the balls in breadcrumbs and left it in the refrigerator overnight; fried it just before serving the next day.

*Serve with tomato ketchup or chili sauce though I think they are pretty good on their own.

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