Wednesday 25 May 2011

Good Old Comfort Food ~ Meatballs and Pasta

Meatballs and pasta. They go together like peanut butter and jam. Good old fashioned comfort food. This particular version was created by one of my favorite chefs, Jamie Oliver. We tested it on Monday evening for dinner, after Dylan specifically requested spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I've made meatballs many times before, but lately I've been testing quite a few of Jamie's recipes, so I figured I might as well check this one out! Everyone in my family loved it and gobbled it up quickly; we'll definitely be making this again.

The thing I love about Jamie's recipes is that he always uses fresh ingredients and basic cooking techniques. Nothing's super fancy, it's just delicious food made with things grown close to home. And this recipe is no exception. The aroma that filled my kitchen as I lightly fried the fresh rosemary was absolutely divine. And then when I combined the rosemary scented meatballs with the tomato sauce mulling with balsamic vinegar and lots of fresh basil, my kitchen was transformed into a little italian villa. Mmmmm....

So here is the recipe itself, taken from Jamie Oliver's website.

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
12 Jacob’s cream crackers
2 heaped teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 lb  good-quality minced beef, pork, or a mixture of the two
1 heaped tablespoon dried oregano
1 large egg, preferably free-range or organic
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
a bunch of fresh basil
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
½ a fresh or dried red chilli
2 x 14 oz tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 lb dried spaghetti or penne
Parmesan cheese, for grating

(From Jamie Oliver's website)
To make the meatballs: Pick the rosemary leaves off the woody stalks and finely chop them. Wrap the crackers in a tea towel and smash up until fine, breaking up any big bits with your hands. Add to a mixing bowl with the mustard, minced meat, chopped rosemary and oregano. Crack in the egg and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. With clean hands scrunch and mix up well. Divide into 4 large balls. With wet hands, divide each ball into 6 and roll into little meatballs – you should end up with 24. Drizzle them with olive oil and jiggle them about so they all get coated. Put them on a plate, cover and place in the fridge until needed.

To cook the pasta, meatballs and sauce: Pick the basil leaves, keeping any smaller ones to one side for later. Peel and finely chop the onion and the garlic. Finely slice the chili. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Next, heat a large frying pan on a medium heat and add 2 lugs of olive oil. Add your onion to the frying pan and stir for around 7 minutes or until softened and lightly golden. Then add your garlic and chilli, and as soon as they start to get some colour add the large basil leaves. Add the tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar. Bring to the boil and season to taste. Meanwhile, heat another large frying pan and add a lug of olive oil and your meatballs. Stir them around and cook for 8–10 minutes until golden (check they’re cooked by opening one up – there should be no sign of pink). Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer until the pasta is ready, then remove from the heat. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions.

To serve the meatballs: Saving some of the cooking water, drain the pasta in a colander. Return the pasta to the pan. Spoon half the tomato sauce into the pasta, adding a little splash of your reserved water to loosen. Serve on a large platter, or in separate bowls, with the rest of the sauce and meatballs on top. Sprinkle over the small basil leaves and some grated Parmesan.

*Nutritional information for this dish has been omitted because it varies so much depending on the ingredients chosen. 

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