Sunday, July 1, 2012

Meatballs! (A Pin a Day #5)

My family loves meat. We are 100% total meat eaters and you would be hard pressed to find another family who loves meat as much as we do. Half of us also love fruits and veggies, so I think it evens it out. In fact! Charlie can not even fathom a meal without meat, he even puts bacon on his grilled cheese (which is really good BTW). I am always on the look out for different ways to prepare the same old chub'o'burger that I buy at the store and always have on hand in the freezer at a moments notice (that reminds me, add chub'o'burger to my shopping list...)

I came across this meal while trying to figure out what I would make for dinner for the #5 blog post. These meatballs looked too delicious to pass up, and trust me, I looked through A LOT of meatball pins...

This is the recipe folks. It's to die for! And it's healthy! *GASP!* The recipe calls for a lot of dried herbs, which is great if you are on a budget or don't have a garden, but dollar for dollar, fresh just tastes better. I have a tiny little garden on the balcony, that's pretty much taken over my balcony, except for the BBQ, where I grow all sorts of lovely things to eat... I guess I'm going to have to dedicate a week of the blog on how to grow your own sustainable herb garden now.

Anyway, I digress. The recipe calls for dried, yada yada yada, I prefer fresh. Either will work. *NOTE* if you ARE using fresh, you'll need a bit more as the dried variety shrinks down and has a more concentrated flavor, but I don't think you can really ever use too much fresh herbs (well, maybe in SOME cases...). I tweaked this a bit, as I make a lot of Italian food and have my own favorite marinara. My recipe is below, the original can be found up top.

This recipe calls for mint and I know what you're thinking, but really the mint just adds a nice freshness to it and does not whatsoever taste like a stick of double mint gum, I promise.

You will need;
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large can (or 2 mediums) tomato sauce
  • 1 generous ribbon of concentrated tomato paste in the tube (or one small can)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper (probably more than you think, so taste and adjust)
  • a good handful of fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and mint - what I used from my garden) if you use dried, a heavy palm full of any combination of the above herbs will do, or a palm full of "Italian seasoning" works too. You will need to taste the sauce about 30 minutes in and adjust the flavor to your liking.

  • 1 lb lean hamburger meat
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs (I ALWAYS use plain so I can season as I need for whatever I will be making. It's also really easy to make your own with old bread, a toaster and a blender.)
  • 5 or 6 fresh spearmint leaves, minced
  • 5 or 6 fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 2 sprigs of oregano, minced
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, minced
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, minced
  • a handful of parsley, chopped (for garnish, optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • parmigiano reggiano cheese (for garinsh and amazingness, optional but who wouldn't?) 
Start by making the sauce. In a large stockpot, add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the hearty fresh herbs (the oregano, rosemary and thyme - go ahead and leave them on the sprigs if using fresh, the leaves will cook down and you can remove the twigs later).

When everything is fragrant, about 5-10 minutes (cooking is as much about following the recipe as it is using your other senses! So smell and taste frequently!) add the canned tomatoes (crushed, sauce and paste) and stir until combined. Add your other herbs and seasonings. Cook for 10 minutes, and taste. Adjust seasons and flavor to your palette. Cook on low for 30 minutes while you make your meatballs.

Now it's time to make your meatballs!

In a large bowl, combine the meat, egg, breadcrumb, seasonings and herbs.

Mix the meat very gently, folding and combining the ingredients but not over working the meat. If you over work it, they will be like dense little meatloaf balls, and not tender juicy meatballs! Mix until totally combined and roll your meat into balls. You will be able to make about 15 small meat balls, or 10 medium ones (or I guess 5-6 large ones).

My recipe differs a little here. I like to brown the outsides of my meat balls in a skillet to bring out the natural caramelization of the meat and produce a more flavorful outcome. To do this, simply heat a skillet over high heat, place meat into the skillet and brown each side for about 3-5 minutes until nice and browned.

Don't worry too much about the edges, as long as you have some browning, you'll be fine. This also creates a "crust" and helps the meatballs hold up as they cook in the sauce. Place the meatballs into the sauce gentle and spoon the sauce over them to cover. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for at least 30 minutes, but as long as it's on low, you could let them go up to an hour.

Prepare your favorite noodle according the package directions and your prefrence to how "al dente" you like it.

Serve the meatballs and sauce on top of your pasta, garnish with cheese (optional, but come on!) and sprinkle with fresh parsley (because I love that delicate grassy flavor) or dried for mostly effect.


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