Monday, August 25, 2014

Meatballs

I get the most intense cravings all the time. Someone mentions Thai food and I'm topsy-turvy until I can get some pad kra pow. I see that Rachel Bilson commercial for those ice cream bars and I have to go the store immediately to buy a pack. I smell the neighbors barbecuing outside and nothing tastes good until I've had a big, juicy burger. It's insane. In addition to that weird affliction, I've got some "default cravings" that are just always existent. I can always go for a bowl of cereal. I can always go for spicy Korean food. And I can always go for a big bowl of pasta.

On this particular day, I was craving noodley pasta and not the short-cut kind. And because it was hot out, I wasn't in the mood for red sauce so I decided to go for some green sauce (re: pesto). I was also somewhat ravenous so I wanted to include a protein and what's more appropriate than meatballs with pasta? I know that there are a jillion meatball recipes out there. I don't care; I'm just going to throw another one on the pile today. What's special about mine? Well, I don't know really, but I like them. They're flavorful and tender and great plopped on top of a pile of pasta or inside of a sandwich.
Ingredients [yields 24 small meatballs]:
1 lb. ground beef (I like an 85/15 mix for this)
½ cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices bread, cubed
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 egg

Start by putting all of the ingredients into a bowl. When you're adding the bread cubes to the bowl, pour the milk right over them so they soak up the moisture. Once you've got everything in, gently combine the ingredients with your hands. Toss and massage but don't squeeze. Squeezing equates to a tough, gross texture.

Use a cookie scoop - I like my 1-1/2 tablespoon size - to dole out evenly sized portions of meat. Then, use your hands to smooth out the meat into smooth spheres. It helps to wet your hands before you start rolling; the water will prevent the meat from sticking to your digits.
Place the meatballs onto a sheet pan and bake at 400F for 20 minutes. If you wanted to make larger meatballs, say 3 tablespoon sized, bake for 30 minutes.
Don't they look yummy? Now, at this point, it's up to you to use these how you like. You could make a yummy meatball sub with tomato sauce and melted cheese. You could put them into an Italian wedding soup. You could crumble them over a pizza.
Obviously, I went the pasta route because I was craving pasta.
Since it's summer time, I thought I'd use some of the basil from our garden and make fresh pesto.
I also roasted some sweet baby tomatoes. I cut them in half, drizzled with olive oil, and popped them into a 400F oven for maybe 10 minutes. I just wanted them in there long enough to evaporate some of the moisture to get a good, acidic, concentrated tomato flavor out of them.
I cooked the linguine just until al dente (in salted boiling water) and then drained it. I plopped the noodles into a big bowl with the pesto, roasted tomatoes, and some havarti cheese cubes.
I gave myself a healthy portion and topped with a few meatballs.
Delicious! The star of the dish was definitely the meatballs. They're super tender and yummy and they're flavorful enough to be memorable but neutral enough to not take over a dish, if that makes sense. Friggin' yum, y'all. The dijon mustard and cumin help to tone down that sort of gamey, bleh flavor that ground meat can sometimes develop when it's cooked to well done. The parmesan cheese adds a salty bite that compliments the bathed-in-pesto pasta and the dried herbs add enough Italian-y flavor without tasting flowery.

If you've been looking for a yummy meatball recipe, this might be the one for you!
Here's the recipe page:

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