spaghetti con bufalo

I tend to like cooking best when innovation rules. I tend to stay away from the tuna casseroles and shepherd’s pies of past decades to take advantage of my era’s best.

But there’s something about the classics, right? And something kind of pathetic about a foodie who has never, in her 28 years, made spaghetti and meatballs. Or any type of meatballs for that matter.


Something about this plain-Jane meal appealed to me on a chilly October Sunday evening after a tough 13-mile run. And (as you can read in my guest post over on Washington Post food columnist Kim O’Donnel’s Eating Down the Fridge challenge), I had enough spaghetti to carb-load the Boston marathon.

You can read more there about why I chose to make spaghetti and meatballs when Italian-American is about the last cuisine to have graced my pots.w_meatballs_3983161823_o

There was one problem. I’m not much into ground beef. Actually, ground meat in general and I aren’t really on the best terms. I’ve read too much Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser to be at peace with the industrial beef system any longer.

Then there was the sweet couple at the farmer’s market selling their grass-fed, lean bison meat. I was suddenly without an excuse. And right there, standing at the back of their truck chewing the cud, spaghetti con bufalo (yes, that’s the Italian spelling) was born.


There must be thousands of recipes out there for this standard, and luckily I didn’t have to bother looking. Another component of the inspiration for this dish is courtesy of my mother. We share meal and food ideas like its some kind of hopeless addiction. (My father’s recent caveat on joining a phone conversation: “As long as you guys are done talking about food.”)

Poor guy.

So to stray from this blog’s usual vegetarian-or-vegan themed meal ideas, I bring you a decidedly meaty post. With a little help from my friend who, taking off in search of beer and bratwurst left me the contents of her cupboard, we had this dish on the table in no time. Mark was in charge of touching the ground meat. I simmered the homemade sauce, and then together we dropped the meatballs into the sauce to cook, all together in a pot.


No frying or baking required. How’s that for a one-pot success?

Your regular programming will soon return. Maybe I’ll even do a vegan version of this dish: spaghetti and bean balls, anyone?

But then again, these healthy, pasture-raised, nutrient-rich meatballs from free-roaming buffalo was indeed a treat. And after 13 miles, my quads also thanked me.

Spaghetti with Bison Meatballs

serves 4-6

Sauté in 2 Tbsp olive oil until tender:

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 green pepper

Add and set to simmer for 1 hour, partly covered:

  • 1  28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • one tin of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups water

Combine the following ingredients and shape into ping-pong ball sized balls. Refrigerate until sauce has simmered for 1 hour. Drop them carefully into the sauce and simmer it all for an additional 30 minutes:

  • 2 lb ground bison
  • 1 ½ cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ¼ tsp dried basil (or 1 tsp fresh, finely minced)
  • ¼ tsp dried marjoram or oregano (or 1 tsp fresh, finely minced)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp salt

Serve over a bed of your favorite spaghetti noodles, top with parsley and Parmesan and enjoy!

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