I set aside a load of time yesterday for my first attempt at making my own beef stock. Unfortunately my plan was scuppered by Morrison’s not having any bones left (they had some in the morning apparently) and the butchers being closed due to illness. I had the time to spare so it would be a shame not to spend it cooking something. We have a flourishing rosemary bush in the garden and there was some good mince on the shelf in front of me which made think that meatballs would be a good idea.
Happily, once I got home I realised that because I’d been planning to make beef stock I had carrots, onions and celery in the fridge. Which is what Italians call the holy trinity of veg because it makes soffrito – the base for many Italian sauces.
The meatballs were easy to make. Like burgers you really don’t need to mess around with egg yolks and breadcrumbs. All you need is good quality mince and some nice flavourings. The balls will hold together without additional binding agents. Soften the onion by frying it in a little oil before adding it into the mix with the mince, rosemary and seasoning. It helps the consistency of the meatballs and ensures that when you bite into one it doesn’t have a crunchy bit of onion in the middle.
If you’re using plum tomatoes like I did then adding a glass of water will help the sauce along as there’s not as much liquid in the tin as with chopped tomatoes or passata.
1 stick of celery
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 chill, deseeded
Tin of plum tomatoes.
Finely chop half the onion and gently soften it with some oil in a small pan.
Chop the rosemary and parsley then add it into a bowl with the mince, a teaspoon of paprika, the chopped onion, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and some salt and pepper.
Add some olive oil and mix the ingredients by hand and squeeze it together to form a large patty.
Break off small sections of mixture and form into small meatballs (a little smaller than a golf ball).
Place on a plate then leave in the fridge for an hour or so.
While the meatballs are in the fridge prepare the soffrito for the sauce by finely chopping the other half of the onion, the carrot and the celery.
Once you’re ready to make the sauce start by browning the meatballs in a large pot then remove them with a slotted spoon and leave to one side.
Gently fry the soffrito (onion, celery and carrot) in the pan until it’s soft.
Add a tablespoon of tomato puree, stir it in and cook for four or five minutes.
Finely chop the chilli and add it to the pot with the garlic.
Pour in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pot slightly and cook it out for a minute.
Add the tin of plum tomatos and a good handful of oregano.
Season with salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for about half an hour.
Stir it regularly and if it needs a bit more liquid add a glass of water into the pot.
After half an hour add the meatballs back into the pot and cook for a further 45 minutes to an hour.
Once the sauce is rich and the meatballs are cooked through put some spaghetti or linguine in a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook until al dente.
Take a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water from the pasta into the meatballs pot.
Drain the pasta and stir it into the sauce with the meatballs then serve.