1/4cupchiffonade of fresh basil, or 2 to 3 teaspoons dried
1or 2 Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds, optional
For the spaghetti:
Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating
Prepare the sauce:
Start by preparing the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Stir in the diced tomatoes, strained tomatoes, oregano, basil and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, add the Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, while you make the meatballs.
Prepare the meatballs:
Using a wooden spoon, break up the ground sirloin in a large mixing bowl. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, onion, oregano, basil, salt and a few grinds of black pepper until well blended. Scatter the mixture over the meat.
In the same small bowl, whisk together the egg, balsamic vinegar and garlic, then add to the meat mixture.
Using your hands, gently combine the meatball ingredients until well mixed, then form it into 20 meatballs, approximately 1-1/2-inches in diameter.
Film the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, brown the meatballs lightly, about 1 minute per side, then transfer them to the sauce to finish cooking.
Turn the meatballs several times to coat them with sauce, then cover the pan and simmer until cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Prepare the spaghetti:
While the meatballs cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook and drain the spaghetti according to package directions.
To serve, plate individual servings of spaghetti, top with meatballs and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Tips for Making This Recipe
How to make soft, fresh breadcrumbs:
Tear a few thick slices of crusty Italian or French bread into 1-inch pieces and add them to the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
About Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds:
The hard rinds of this classic Italian cheese should never be discarded because they make a fabulous addition to sauces, soups and stews. True Parmigiano-Reggiano is unwaxed and the rinds are perfectly safe to use in this way.Some cheesemongers sell them separately just for this purpose (check your local Whole Foods), or, you can save them yourself and store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.Please note: We don't recommend freezing Parmigiano-Reggiano or any other cheese - just the rinds.