Italian/New York Meatballs

Italian/New York Meatballs

I make meatballs fairly regularly: Italian ones with garlic and herbs in tomato sauce, Thai ones with ginger, chilli and lime in a broth and Scandinavian ones with nutmeg and white pepper in a sour cream sauce. These are just the basics; there are so many variations, I feel I could spend my life making delicious meatballs without serving the same ones twice. And I haven’t even mentioned the accompaniments: pasta, noodles, potatoes or bread? I feel a whole series of blog posts coming on.

When a recipe I spotted recently promised to give me Italian-style meatballs like they make in New York, I couldn’t wait to try them. The meatballs proposed by chef Stephen Harris in the Telegraph are, as he says, quick to make and to cook. While they are not the best I’ve made, they’re pretty good and do conjure up that New York/Italian vibe.

Ingredients

For 2 people

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil and some for drizzling
  • 100g baby spinach
  • 1 x 400g tin tomatoes
  • About 30g parmesan and a squeeze of lemon

Method

  • In a bowl mix the mince with about 5 pinches of salt and the thyme leaves if using
  • Roll the mince between your palms into 10 x 50g balls
  • Heat half a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the meatballs, turning them until they’re brown all over. They will not yet be cooked through to the middle
  • Remove the balls to a plate and heat another half tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the spinach leaves, cooking them until wilted
  • Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil and stir in a little more salt
  • Add the meatballs, turn down to a simmer and cook. If you’re using an Aga, you don’t need to cover them: just place the pan in the simmering oven for about half an hour or longer if you need to. If using a conventional hob, loosely cover the tin (with a lid or some scrunched up foil) and simmer for about 10 minutes
  • Drizzle with a little olive oil, add a squeeze of lemon and serve with grilled ciabatta (see below) and a rocket salad

Grilled ciabatta

  • Split half a ciabatta lengthways
  • Take a ridged griddle pan if you have one (or a regular frying pan if you don’t) and pre-heat it in the roasting oven
  • Place it on the boiling plate and add your ciabatta slices and toast on both sides
  • Rub the pieces of ciabatta with the cut sides of two halved cloves of garlic and drizzle over some olive oil

If I was making these again, I’d add breadcrumbs soaked for half an hour in milk to the meat mixture. I find this makes the meatball texture softer and less rubbery. But that’s for another day. In the meantime, these will do fine.

Cavolo Nero

4f3d21f62542b_cavolo_nero

 

Cavolo nero is a cousin of kale and both belong to the brassica family.  Its long leaves are so dark green in colour, they’re nearly black or “nero”.  It originates from Tuscany where it was first believed to be grown in 600BC.

I can’t say when it first started to appear in our greengroceries and supermarkets but it doesn’t seem like long ago.  Since I first discovered it, relatively recently, I’ve used it mainly in minestrone and in pasta dishes.  It has a deliciously rich and intense flavour.

Not surprisingly, cavolo nero works well in pasta dishes and this recipe by Stevie Parle, which appeared in the Telegraph a couple of years ago, is delicious.

Ingredients

  • 500g penne
  • 300g cavolo nero (you can strip the leaves from the stem if you like but since it’s going to be puréed I don’t think it’s necessary. I just chopped mine up.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated parmesan to taste

Method

  • Bring some salted water to the boil with the garlic cloves in a large saucepan and add the cavolo nero.  Cook for 5-10 minutes until tender and drain, keeping the garlic cloves
  • Transfer this and the pine nuts to a food processor and blitz.  Add the olive oil and parmesan (maybe a couple of handfuls), process again and season.  You will have a dark green sauce
  • Meanwhile bring another pan of water to the boil and cook the penne according to packet instructions
  • Drain the pasta, reserving a ladleful of the cooking water, return it to the pan and toss with the sauce, loosening it with some of the cooking water
  • Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve with more grated parmesan