A spring-loaded scoop makes quick work of forming meatballs.
- Coarse salt
- 3/4 pound spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
- 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, pureed, or 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 pound ground pork
- 3/4 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
- Grated Parmesan, for serving
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, 5 minutes. Remove 1/3 cup onion and transfer to a cutting board. Add bell pepper to remaining onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until bell pepper is softened, 8 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water to pot, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add tomatoes (if using crushed, add an additional 3/4 cup water) and red-pepper flakes and bring to a gentle simmer.
In a large bowl, combine breadcrumbs, milk, and 1 teaspoon salt. Roughly chop reserved onion and add to bowl, along with pork and fennel seed. Stir until just combined (do not overmix). Drop meat mixture by heaping tablespoons into sauce. Gently shake pot to submerge meatballs as much as possible, cover, and simmer until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Divide pasta among four bowls, top with meatballs and sauce, and sprinkle with Parmesan.