Posts Tagged ‘meatballs’

Spaghetti with Sicilian Meatballs

January 13, 2013

IMG_9502When we were in Italy, what struck me most is that there truly isn’t “Italian” food. Rather, their food is identified by the region you are in. Spaghetti and clams in the Italian Riviera. Boar in Tuscany. Pizza in Naples. That is why I was so intrigued when I saw a recipe for Sicilian meatballs in Bon Appetit.

The food of Sicily has a Greek and sometimes African influence, making it have more olives, capers and currants than you would find in the “boot.” So when looking at the meatball recipe, at first glance it seemed very traditional. Sausage meat (which was an interesting twist on the typical beef, veal, pork combo), breadcrumbs in milk, garlic, onion, etc. Yet, then they add pine nuts and currants to make it have a bit of nutty sweetness. They are baked, and then smothered in a traditional Italian red sauce.

This dish has that same warm, comforting result as typical Italian meatballs, but they do have an interesting sweetness to them that makes them have a “hmm, what’s that?” factor. It is a great alternative to a typical bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, and will be making its way to our dinner table as a great Sicilian (not Italian!) dish!

SPAGHETTI WITH SICILIAN MEATBALLS
Serves 4-6

Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Meatballs:
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons dried currants

1 pound spaghetti

For Sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juices and 2 tablespoons basil; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes with fork, about 1 hour. Mix in 2 tablespoons basil. Season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.

For Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil baking sheet. Mix crumbs and milk in medium bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Mix in Parmesan, onion, basil, egg, garlic and pepper. Add sausage, pine nuts and currants; blend well. Using wet hands, form mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place on baking sheet. Bake until meatballs are light brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Add to sauce.

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Mound in dish. Bring sauce and meatballs to simmer. Mix with and spoon over spaghetti.

Kefta Tagine with Eggs and Roasted Cumin

January 16, 2012

After 2 weeks of not cooking, due to a lack of dishwasher (yes, we were actually so lazy we dirtied as few dishes as possible!), I wanted to try something lengthy, complicated, warm and comforting. Something that could go terribly wrong, but could also go terribly right. So, I broke out my Tagine cookbook, by Ghillie Basan, to find something spicy and filling to warm us on a cold winter night.

This dish caught my eye because even though it was comprised of the traditional lamb that is in many African dishes, it came together as meatballs, with sunny side up eggs, all cooked in the tagine.

The meatballs are called kefta, and they are filled with amazing spices, and are poached in water (which helps them keep their perfect shape), then cooked in spiced liquid that absorbs into the meatballs, and creates a hot, dry bottom of the tagine in which to cook the eggs.

Not only did the dish turn out perfectly, but the combination was nothing we had ever experienced. The spice, ras-el-hanout, is worth seeking out (I found mine at my local spice store, but you can also find it online).

My only caution is to be careful of the spice level. I will write this recipe with the spice level I used so hopefully it will do the trick (vs. the original recipe from the cookbook).

Trust me, it is worth the effort. And, ironically enough, at the end of the day there really weren’t many dishes to speak of – except the tagine itself (which doesn’t go in the dishwasher).

KEFTA TAGINE WITH EGGS AND ROASTED CUMIN
Serves 4

For the Kefta:
16 ounces ground lamb
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried mint
3 teaspoons ras-el-hanout
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Rest of the Dish:
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6-8 eggs
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, dry-roasted and ground
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley

To make the kefta, put the ground lamb, onion, mint, ras-el-hanout, cayenne and parsley in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and mix well together. Using your hands, knead the mixture and mold it into small balls.

Fill a tagine (or dutch oven) with water and bring it to a boil. Carefully drop in the kefta, a few at a time, and poach them for about 10 minutes, turning them so they cook on all sides. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Reserve roughly 2 1/2 cups of cooking liquid.

Add the butter to the tagine with the reserved cooking water and bring to a boil. Stir in the salt and cayenne and drop in the poached kefta. Cook over high heat until almost all of the liquid has evaporated (about 15 or so minutes). Carefully crack the eggs around the kefta, cover the tagine with the lid, and cook and steam until they are just set. Sprinkle the roasted cumin seeds and the chopped parsley over the top of the dish. Serve with pearl couscous and flat bread.

Sunday Gravy with Onion-Herb Focaccia

November 14, 2009

IMG_1711_1With an Italian husband and a great love for Italian food, quite a bit of it gets made in our household. And as I continue to look at recipes from his family, Bon Appetit and various sources, there is a lot of talk about the San Marzano tomato.

I have always wondered if it was merely another brand, or something organically grown? Will it really change my sauce into something more delicious? I had always doubted a tomato type could do such great things until I finally went into my International food aisle and bought some. Yes, this tomato does indeed have powers beyond your imagination. I am a believer, and may never go back.

The story goes that the first seed of the San Marzano tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Kingdom of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and that it was planted in the area that corresponds to the present commune of San Marzano. For those who know Italy’s geography know that this area contains volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. It is believed that this soil acts as a filter for water impurities. The result – a strong, sweeter, less acidic tomato that will give your sauces a “wow” factor.

This recipe came from Food Network Magazine with some improv – feel free to tinker with the recipe as I did. Also, the simple to make focaccia recipe (also Food Network Magazine) is a great complement.

Note: don’t make the mistake of not letting it simmer all day (hence the “Sunday” in its name). It helps the flavors blend and results in a richer sauce.

Another Note: Yes, the Italians call it gravy and yes, I didn’t know this until I married one. Don’t confuse this with the turkey gravy you get at Thanksgiving – this is your hearty meat sauce for spaghetti!

SUNDAY GRAVY
6 Servings

3 slices white bread, toasted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup milk
3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)
10 cloves garlic; 2 minced, 8 smashed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds Italian sausage (half sweet, half hot), halved
1 medium onion, quartered
3 28-ounce cans San Marzano plum tomatoes
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
6 bay leaves
1 pound orecchiette pasta (or any pasta you like)

Soak the bread in the milk until the liquid is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the ground beef and pork in a bowl with the egg, cheese, minced garlic, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the soaked bread and mix with your hands until combined. Form into 16 meatballs.IMG_1707

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add sausage to the pot and cook until browned, turning, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large bowl.

Add the onion and smashed garlic to the pot and fry until soft, about

4 minutes. Crush the tomatoes into the pot with your hands and pour in the juices. Stir in the tomato paste, season with salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes.

Add 5 cups water and the bay leaves, then return the meatballs, beef shin and sausage to the pot, stirring carefully. Bring to a low boil, stir, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 2 hours, or until the shin meat is very tender. Uncover and simmer until the sauce thickens and the shin meat is falling off the bone, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Transfer all the meats with a slotted spoon to a bowl and cover with foil. Simmer the sauce to thicken, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain and toss with enough sauce to coat lightly, then top with more sauce and the meat. Garnish with parmesan, if desired.

IMG_1710ONION-HERB FOCACCIA
4 Servings

On a floured surface, roll out 1 pound refrigerated pizza dough into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle; press into an oiled rimmed baking sheet. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary and/or oregano, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and a big pinch of sea salt. Brush half of the herb oil over the dough, then set aside until puffy, about 1 hour. Make dimples in the dough with your fingers and top with thin onion slices and shaved parmesan. Bake at 400 until golden, about 20 minutes. Brush with the remaining herb oil.

Pork Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce

October 5, 2009

CHIPOTLE MEATBALLSWhen the weather gets cold, I love a huge bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. So, when I saw this recipe on a PBS show (Everyday Food), I thought it was an interesting twist. I love the unique flavor the chipotles provide, and it gives the traditional spaghetti and meatballs a different personality.

I personally love to bake the meatballs vs. frying them in a skillet (I tend to get a better shape and overall cooking temperature). But, this recipe would work either way (it was originally written for pan frying). I also cut back on the onion (1/2 an onion vs. a full onion) because it seemed like a lot in comparison to the meat. But, feel free to add more!

PORK MEATBALLS IN CHIPOTLE SAUCE
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1/2 medium onion, coarsely grated and squeezed firmly to remove excess liquid
1 small zucchini, coarsely grated and squeezed firmly to remove excess liquid
1 large egg
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 2 chipotle chiles in adobo
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Cooked rice and chopped fresh cilantro, for serving (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine pork, onion, zucchini, egg, breadcrumbs, oregano, cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; mix well with a fork. Form into 16 (2-inch) balls; transfer to a plate, and place in freezer until firm, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes and chiles in a blender; process until smooth, and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs; cook until brown, turning often, 4 to 5 minutes; transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining oil and meatballs. Or, preheat oven to 375-400 and place meatballs on jelly roll pan. Bake until cooked almost all the way through.

Add pureed sauce and return all meatballs to a skillet on medium low (the same skillet you cooked the meatballs in if you pan fried them). Cover; simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Uncover, and simmer until sauce is thickened, 5 to 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice, sprinkled with cilantro, as desired.


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