Monday, June 30, 2014

Spaghetti and Meatballs (GF)

I’m so obsessed with the meatballs at Pizza Rock – incredibly tender, flavorful and moist, bathed in bright tomato sauce.  I can’t NOT get them when I go.  (I suspect their tenderness can be attributed to the presence of ground veal.)  I’ve been searching for a meatball recipe to match that one, but I always follow instructions and get something that just tastes like a ball of hamburger with no flavor.  No more!  This is a recipe of my own creation – no white bread soaked in milk, since I’m boycotting white flour – with all the flavor elements amped up an extra notch.  These are good on their own and need only a little sauce, Parmesan and noodles to make them complete.  I use all hamburger since I get grass-fed beef from my parents, but feel free to add pork, veal or Italian sausage.  I normally do NOT use dry powdered “Parmesan” cheese, but for an ingredient in meatballs I won’t pony up a quarter cup of my pricey authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano.  I’ll save it for sprinkling on top!  Enjoy.

2 pounds ground beef (or a combination of beef/pork/veal/sausage)
1 cup oatmeal, ground in a food processor to the consistency of coarse flour
1/2 cup milk, or enough to just moisten the oatmeal
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated or dry powdered cheese)
about 1/4 to 1/3 of an onion, grated
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cinnamon (I LOVE cinnamon in my Bolognese, but feel free to omit this)
1 handful basil leaves, chopped or snipped finely (reserve a few for serving)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

8 heirloom tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped in a food processor
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Combine the oatmeal and milk in a bowl.  Set aside.  Add the meat to a large bowl and add the moistened oatmeal and all the remaining ingredients.  Using your hands, mix everything just until combined but do not overmix.  Use an ice cream scoop to shape into large balls and bake for 30 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking prepare the sauce.  Brown the onions in olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for one minute.  Add bay leaves, spices, tomatoes and their juice.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta if serving.

When the meatballs are cooked, drain off the excess oil from the pan.  Nestle the meatballs in the sauce and place the baking pan over a burner on medium high heat.  When the pan is hot, deglaze with the red wine, quickly scraping the bits from the pan while the wine reduces slightly, 1-2 minutes.  Stir the reduction into the meatballs and sauce.  Season with salt to taste.

Serve alone or with gluten free or whole grain pasta, garnished with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh basil leaves.

No joke - I would put these up there with Pizza Rock's balls!

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