Sunday, April 11, 2010
Best Ever Italian Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce
Ok, I'm sure all of you Italians would argue that these aren't the best Meatballs ever at all. I'm sure you're going to tell me that the ones that your Nonna makes are a million times better. Well, this time I'm putting my foot down. I can honestly say that I have never eaten meatballs as good as these and if you have a better recipe, I would love to hear from you and I promise I'll give it a go to compare.
Since the SBS food website is focusing on Italian food over the next few weeks and I am their 'featured foodie' for that time - I thought I'd share with you this amazing recipe. It's really very easy - it doesn't take hours of simmering away on the stove and can be ready in just over an hour or so. This is perfect food for the coming cooler months!
185 ml Olive Oil
100g Pine Nuts
3 Garlic Cloves
2 Teaspoons of Fennel Seeds
55g fresh or dried breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
40g Parmesan Cheese
Zest of 1 Large Lemon
1 Free Range Egg
500 Mince Free Range Pork (you can use beef or a mixture of both if you prefer)
Sauce 2 x 400g tins of whole peeled tomatoes
125ml Red Wine (I've used white many times when that's all I've had in the cupboard)
Heat half of the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and pine nuts until onion is soft and the pine nuts are light golden brown. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for a few minutes more - making sure you don't overcook the pine nuts. They won't taste very nice if they're burnt.
Place the parsley, crushed fennel seeds, breadcrumbs, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest and egg in a bowl and add the mince. Add the cooled onion and pine nuts, season with salt and pepper and mix briefly until all of the ingredients are combined. Test for seasoning by frying one small meatball and tasting for flavour. Leave the mixture to rest in the fridge for at least 30 mins. This will help the meatballs hold their shape whilst cooking.
To make the meatballs, roll about 50g of mixture into a ball about the size of a golf ball and then flatten slightly to make it easier to cook both sides. 50g may seem like quite a big meatball, but I assure you that it's the perfect size. At this point you could put on your water for your pasta - to get it boiling.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the meatballs until golden brown on both sides. You will probably need to cook these in a couple of batches to avoid overcrowding the frying pan - which will lower the heat of your frypan - make them take longer to cook and harder to turn over. A non-stick frypan is best to use for this recipe as the meatballs can easily stick on a regular pan. Once browned on both sides, remove the meatballs from the pan. Don't worry about cooking them through - we'll do this later. By just searing them each side for some colour and texture, you will keep the meatballs moist inside.
To make the sauce, you just need to pour your wine into a clean frying pan or wide saucepan and simmer it for a few minutes - just to remove that strong alcohol taste. Then you can add your tins of tomatoes. Simmer this sauce for about 10 minutes. The tomatoes which were whole, should start to break down. You can help this along by using your wooden spoon.
It's at this point that you can put on your pasta, as it should only take about 10 minutes to cook.
Gently place the meatballs into the pan, sitting in the tomato sauce. Place a lid over the top and simmer for 10 mins. Give the pan a little gentle shake every so often, just to make sure that the sauce or the meatballs haven't stuck to the bottom, as this will cause them to burn. You want the sauce to be on a gentle simmer.
Your pasta should be ready after 10 mins, as should your meatballs. Drain the pasta - I like to use Calabresi pasta, but you could really use whatever pasta you like.
The pine nuts give the meatballs a bit of texture, while the ricotta keeps the balls soft. The lemon is really nice in there - as is the fennel, which really goes well with the pork (if you're using it). I often like to add even more parmesan for a really cheesy meatball.