Monday, August 15, 2011

Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Whilst I enjoy cooking and probably spend a lot more time cooking then most people, it is time consuming, and after coming home from work I am can be tired and not always in the mood to cook. My weeknight meals are generally quite simple and don’t take long to prepare.

I always like to have a few meals in the freezer for those nights when I can’t be bothered cooking at all but I can still be happy with the knowledge that I have something delicious waiting for me to warm up in the freezer.

On Sundays, it’s my “what can I cook in bulk today?” so that I have dinner sorted for the next 2 nights when the workweek starts again, some leftovers for work and maybe some to freeze for a rainy day.

But there aren’t many dishes that I can enjoy eating for a few nights in a row, and eating again and again. I get sick of it. It’s the law of diminishing marginal utility – the more times that I consume a dish in a row, there will be a decline in the satisfaction that I get from it.

Something that I love eating, and can eat again and again is spaghetti bolognese. It’s a hearty meal. This time I tried making a big pot of meatballs with tomato sauce for something a bit different, it’s pretty much bolognese in meatball form.

To make these meatballs I adapted recipes from Exclusively Food and Gourmet Traveller. The result was flavoursome meatballs in a rich tomato sauce. 

Ingredients for meatballs (makes about 38 balls)
•    extra virgin olive oil
•    350g pork mince
•    350g beef mince
•    ~125g bacon, rind removed, finely diced (about 3 slices of bacon)
•    2-3 shallots (~1/2 cup), finely diced
•    3 cloves garlic, finely diced
•    100g parmesan, grated
•    1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (1-2 slices of bread, crusts removed and crumbed in food processor)
•    100ml milk
•    1 egg yolk
•    1 tablespoon chopped parsley
•    1 tablespoon chopped oregano
•    1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
•    1 teaspoon chopped thyme
•    ½ -1 teaspoon fennel seeds, roasted and ground
•    grating of nutmeg (~1/4 teaspoon)
•    salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for tomato sauce
•    extra virgin olive oil
•    1 tablespoon butter
•    2-3 shallots (~1/2 cup), finely diced
•    3 cloves garlic, finely diced
•    ½ cup red wine
•    700g bottle of tomato passata
•    400g can Italian whole peeled tomatoes
•    2 cups chicken stock
•    2 teaspoons brown sugar
•    2 bay leaves
•    2 sprigs thyme
•    salt and pepper to taste


Preparing meatballs  - Heat 1 tablespoon of EVOO in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until softened (5-7minutes). Then add in the garlic and cook, stirring constantly for another minute. Set aside to cool.

Steep the bread crumbs in milk for about 5 minutes, then squeeze the excess liquid from the bread. Mash the breadcrumbs and milk with a fork to a smooth paste.

Combine the pork and beef mince, bacon, herbs, egg yolk, cooked shallot, breadcrumbs, fennel, nutmeg, parmesan thoroughly together in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Roll the mixture into balls in your hands until they start to feel elastic and cover them lightly with flour.

I placed the meatballs on trays and refrigerated them while I made the sauce.

(NB: You can test the seasoning and flavourings of the meatballs by rolling a little flat cake of the mixture and frying it in oil until cooked and taste. Then you can adjust the seasonings and flavourings to desired taste)

Making the tomato sauce - Heat 1 tablespoon of EVOO and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large heavy based pot over medium heat, add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until softened (5-7minutes). Then add in the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add wine and cook until reduced by a third (2-4 minutes). Add in can of whole peeled tomatoes, passata, bay leaves, thyme, chicken stock and sugar, and bring to boil. Use a spoon to break up the whole tomatoes. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season the tomato sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 190C.

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the meatballs in batches and fry for a few minutes, turning occasionally until golden brown (don’t need to worry about fully cooking through the meatballs as they will cook further in the sauce later). Add the meatballs into the pot of tomato sauce, cover with a lid, transfer to oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is rich and thick, about 1 hour.

Serve meatballs and tomato sauce with pasta.

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