I am a firm believer in career breaks, taking space from the pressure of work, regrouping and in my case allowing my body to untense and my mind to stop racing with my top priority to do’s. Apart from my most recent one, about 8 years ago I also took a shorter sabbatical and went off to live in Rome. It was a total adventure, I knew no one, did not speak the language but armed with the name of a language school and a pre booked apartment I was good to go. During my stay I did some cookery courses, mainly in local mama’s houses including one lady who had a fruit and vegetable stall in the centre of Rome. Bearing in mind that my Italian was non existent in the main, it was usually a case of pointing and being elbowed in the direction of the ingredient that was my responsibility to prepare. I loved my time there and always say I think I was an Italian in a previous Life. Looking through my recipe cards recently and apart from realising that my Italian is really very rusty now, I was reminded to prepare my meatballs recipe. While I was there, I learnt how typical Italians eat these as they are, not with a shed load of pasta, usually some tomato sauce only. I was also interested to be shown how to use them to make lasagne. Instead of a layer of cooked meat, a little meatball was placed onto each sheet of pasta, topped with bechamel, cheese, more pasta and so on, building up the layers until the final product looked like a dish of little hills.
What ever way you use them, they are delicious, a real hit with the man in my house, served with tomato sauce and a little (note: Little!) pasta on the side. Penne being my favourite and gluten free in this case….real man food I was told!
Serves about 5
1 lb each of minced beef and pork or beef only if you prefer
4 oz prosciutto, finely chopped
4 oz fresh breadcrumbs lightly soaked in milk
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium onion peeled and grated
3oz parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes or couple pinches of cayenne
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 jar passata – I use an Organic one from Bunalun
1 small onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic
chopped basil leaves
Oven at 190 C
Squeeze out milk from bread crumbs and add to meats with grated onion, parmesan, garlic, oregano, chilli flakes and season
Gently mix ingredients with your hands – dont overwork.
Form the meatballs by hand – I use an icecream scoop to get the same amount every time
Heat olive oil in a large pan and add meatballs and brown them. Keep the heat on medium high and dont play with them as you want them to turn lovely and brown and crusty. (You will have to do about 2 batches in the pan unless your pan is really big).
Remove to a casserole dish or large deep baking tray.
Make sauce by adding chopped onion to pan and soften it on gentle heat for about 5-10 minutes
Add garlic and cook for about a minute then pour in the passata
Bring up to the boil, simmer and season with a tsp of sugar and some salt
Pour over the meatballs and cook with lid or foil on for about 20-30 minutes until meatballs are done.
Chop basil and add just before serving.