Tag Archives: meatballs

Comforting Italian Meatballs

This meal is like a hug on a plate. That sounds pretty weird but you know those meals that you just know you love, you think about making them a few days in advance, you plan them for a day when you have plenty of time to eat slowly, chat over wine and then go and collapse in an undignified heap on the sofa afterwards? This is one of those meals. Originally a Nigella Lawson recipe we think, but possibly adapted over time (sorry Nigella!) the meatballs are soft, fragrant with oregano and with a delicious salty tang from parmesan or pecorino cheese. They’re served with a rich tomato sauce which is so simple to make and mountains of pasta.

Ingredients (serves 4, generously – we actually made half of this mixture as our freezer is fit to bursting so we didn’t want leftovers but this freezes beautifully if you have the space!)

Meatballs:

  • 250g pork, minced
  • 250g beef, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs or semolina
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Tomato sauce:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (preferably not extra-virgin)
  • 700g tomato passata
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper
  • 100ml full fat milk

So it looks like a lot of ingredients but plenty of them are storecupboard favourites, it’s really not intimidating at all! To make the meatballs you basically chuck everything in a bowl and then get your hands messy but there are some cheats you can do to make it even easier! This is a no chopping recipe, a knife free zone (almost).

Grab yourself a mini chopper or food processor and blitz up a hunk of parmesan, once it’s finely chopped whack it in a bowl. Pop the clove of garlic (peeled) and about 10-20 oregano leaves (depending on size) into the blender, whizz until chopped and chuck them straight into a big bowl which you will make your meatballs in. Now you will have some bits of garlic and oregano stuck to the side of your blender… do you want to waste them? Do you want to spend forever scraping them all out? No. So grab a small piece of bread, whizz that up to breadcrumbs and then chuck all of that in the large bowl too. Whizz up a bit more bread so you’ve got enough breadcrumbs to perfect the texture of your meatballs and you’re ready to go! Add all of the other meatball ingredients to the bowl, the measurements above usually work fine but if you have a particularly small or large egg then you will need to adjust the breadcrumbs accordingly. Get your hands in there and squish it all together, but try not to squash all of the texture out of this, you want the meatballs to be light and still retain a bit of texture. Once it’s mixed fairly well shape into meatballs, this should make around 16-20. Pop these on a plate or a tray in the fridge, they need at least half an hour to chill but can be left for hours.

Meatballs

To make the tomato sauce you’ll need your food processor/chopper again. It would be a total lie if we said we washed ours between using it for the breadcrumbs etc, a quick wipe and it’s good to go. Peel the onion, chop into large chunks and put it in the blender along with the peeled garlic cloves and dried oregano. Whizz this up really well, you want a grainy paste rather than finely chopped. Place a large saucepan over a low heat and add the olive oil and butter, once bubbling scrape in the onion/garlic/oregano paste and cook for about 10 minutes stirring almost constantly. This mixture shouldn’t colour, it should just soften and become really aromatic. After this time tip in the passata, and then half fill the jar/carton with cold water, give it a shake to get all of the bits off the side and add this to the pan too. Season it with the sugar, salt and pepper at this stage. It will seem really thin but it’s got a fair bit of cooking to do. Simmer this for about 15 minutes. Pour in the milk and mix well, then take the meatballs out of the fridge and gently drop them into the tomato sauce, you want them to be completely submerged and not on top of each other which is why you need a big pan! Resist the urge to stir at all or prod them around as they will just break apart. Put a lid on half covering the pan and leave them to gently simmer away.

Now is the time to get some water on for your pasta, the meatballs will take about 20-25 minutes to cook, we served ours with tagliatelle which takes about 8 minutes to cook. Once the meatballs have had around 15 minutes cooking time they will be less fragile so feel free to have a gentle stir of the pan to make sure nothing is catching on the bottom. Once the pasta is cooked we like to drain it, then put in a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce to coat the pasta and then serve the meatballs on top with more sauce, but you could just whack a big bowl of pasta and a big dish of meatballs on the table for everyone to help themselves! Serve with the leftover grated cheese (and if you’re anything like us, the block of cheese and a grater), a glass of red wine, a few twists of black pepper and prepare to feel like you’re getting the best hug in the world from an old friend.

Meatballs and pasta

 

Moroccan Lamb Meatballs

Ah Marrakech! Looking back it was definitely one of the best weekends of our lives, but on first arrival it was shit scary! We landed at about 7pm and because it was March it was pretty dark already. Our riad had organised a taxi driver to meet us, but we couldn’t find him for ages, so it was fully dark by the time we had our stuff in the car and were hurtling along. The rules on the roads in Marrakech seem to be “Whoever is biggest has the right of way” which makes for a pretty hairy ride! Suddenly the taxi pulled over on the main ring road outside the Medina walls and tried to make a phone call. Having failed, and stabbing at his phone again he got out of the taxi to try again. We started to get a little shifty at this point, he’d offered no explanation and we had no idea what was going on.

He got back in the taxi and we asked him (in a mix of not brilliant French and sign language) if we were going to the riad, and he said that he was trying to call the owner but couldn’t reach him (at least that’s what we think he said – at this stage there was a lingering suspicion that he might have been trying to get a good price for us…). Not a great sign. We carried on and were soon in the maze of streets that make up the medina, most of which looked far too small to accommodate a car. After a few wrong turns we ended up parked in the middle of what looked like a small market, where once again the taxi driver got out of the car to make a phone call. The people out on the streets were trying to open the car doors – one of them tried to usher us towards his riad (not ours!) – and we were sufficiently freaked out by this point. Then the car door opened and a there stood Thierry, the owner of the riad! We were so relieved and felt pretty stupid for getting so anxious.

Stepping into the riad we were blown away. After entering through an ancient but unassuming door off a side street suddenly we were in a candlelit courtyard with trees, rooms off each side, a mezzanine level… it was amazing. We were shown around our suite (first time in a suite!) and then taken through to have dinner which was waiting for us.

Bird's eye view of our beautiful riad - can you spot the tortoise?
Bird’s eye view of our beautiful riad – can you spot the tortoise?

After a starter of red pepper and olive salad a beautiful tagine pot came out, containing what we have tried to recreate (fairly successfully!) in this recipe. Juicy little spiced lamb meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce topped with baked egg and served with cous cous.

Ingredients (for 2 hungry people):

  • 250g lamb mince
  • Baharat or Ras el Hanout spice mix
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 500g passata
  • 1-3 tsp of harissa – different brands have very different spice levels
  • 2 eggs
  • Cous cous
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Add the sliced onion and pepper to a saucepan over a low heat with a dash of olive oil and leave to soften and sweat down, stirring occasionally. Mix the lamb mince with around 1 heaped tsp of whichever spice mix you are using and about 1/2 tsp of salt, using your hands to really squish it together and distribute the spices around. Then roll into small meatballs, using around 1 tsp of mixture per meatball.

Rotational symmetry optional.
Rotational symmetry optional.

Turn your attention back to the onion and pepper which should be softened by now and add in 1 tsp of the spice mix, the harissa and the passata. Let this heat up and then spread 1 spoonful of it over the base of an ovenproof dish, not much at all, just enough to cover the base. Then add in your meatballs and cover them with the rest of the sauce. Pop this in the oven. Very lightly whisk two eggs with a little salt and pepper, and then once the meatballs have been in the oven for 15 minutes pour this gently over the top. Try to be extremely careful with this or it will fall out in one big blob and won’t cook properly!

Meatball2

Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking and then serve with some lemon cous cous and salad.

Baked meatballs

We made this recipe up after having it that first night in the riad, and we think it’s a pretty successful recreation!

The view from the roof terrace of our riad, one of the best views in Marrakech!
The view from the roof terrace of our riad, one of the best views in Marrakech!