For this edition of Presto Pasta Night, I'm taking a more leisurely approach and making meatballs.
I know my method will probably be at odds with the meatball traditionalists but this is how I like them and it works to produce a moist meatball. One of the most important parts in to have a very rich tomato based sauce that has slowly cooked to develop its flavour.
Fettucine con Polpette/Fettucine with Meatballs
For the meatballs:
lean beef, diced and minced
finely grated Pastorello (you can use Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana or Pecorino)
fresh rosemary, finely chopped
freshly ground salt and white pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
For the sauce:
2 red onions, finely sliced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Italian canned diced tomatoes (use fresh only if in reason and ripe)
Make the meatballs:
I tend to mince my own rather than buy it minced. I use one of my favourite cuts of beef called Girello (or silverside). It's a very lean meat so it can dry out when cooked.
To my minced girello I add some finely grated Pastorello and a little finely chopped fresh rosemary - rosemary is quite a pungent herb so a little does go a long way. Next is a good grinding of salt and pepper followed by the lightly beaten egg.
Now you mix this all together and nothing does this better than your hands. It's the only way I've found that really allows you to work the proteins of the meat and allows you to feel them transition. It's going to be a bit sloppy at this stage so add a little breadcrumbs and continue mixing until it forms sticky but homogeneous mass.
It's not just a matter of pinch walnut sized pieces of the mixture and rolling them into balls. I prefer the meatballs to be a touch on the smaller size.
This next step is probably where the eyebrows will raise. Once I've formed all the meatballs I them dust them in the really fine coating of breadcrumbs. Perhaps it is because I am using a very lean meat but I find that this coating protects the meat from drying out and becoming just hard lumps.
The best way I've found to dust the meatballs is to place a little breadcrumbs into a spherical pan, add some of the meatballs and then jiggle the pan, the meatballs will follow the curve, picking up just the finest coating of crumbs. Best of all you don't need to over-handle them.
Set them aside while you make the sauce.
Make the tomato sauce:
Heat olive oil and a small knob of butter in a large pan and when the butter has melted and the mix is sizzling add the vegetables and rosemary. Sauté this until golden over a medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent the mixture from burning. This will take a good 15-20 minutes.
Add a spoonful of tomato paste and stir this through - cook it out for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes. Keep the pan on a simmer and allow this to cook for 30 minutes. During this time you want the mixture to lose some of its liquid and the sauce to begin to darken and reduce.
Cook the meatballs:
Pour a little oil in a frypan and place over a medium heat. When the mixture is hot add the meatballs, a few at a time, being careful not to overfill the pan. At this stage, I am looking to just colour the meatballs - they will finish cooking in the sauce. Once the meatballs have coloured, remove them to a plate and finish cooking the remainders.
When all the meatballs have cooked add these to the sauce - stir them through well ensuring that they are well coated with the sauce. If it seems a little dry you can add a touch of water.
Let this simmer away for another 20 minutes - this will allow the meatballs to absorb all those lovely juices and flavours of the sauce and will produce a moist and tender meatball.
I've served these with fettucine and rather than using Parmigiano I've kept the flavours consistent and used the Pastorello.
Tagged with Pasta