The other day I was in the butcher’s looking for inspiration, the various cuts and joints were all making their foodie dreams into my head. Should I go for a roast beef, some BBQ chicken wings, how about a classic Toad-in-the-hole. Then, as I stood looking at the pork belly and considering another joyous adventure to flavourtown and crispy crackling, I had a particular neuron fire with gusto. I could hear a little voice saying “meatballs, meeeeeetballs, meeeeaaaatbaaaalls!!” So instead pork meatballs it had to be.
When it came to making these, I decided to make in the food processor rather than chop, shred or dice by hand. This was partly as I needed to make breadcrumbs from a load of old crusts and some stale bread I had and didn’t want to waste. So as the machine is out, lets use it!
Normally, I would not recommend chopping an onion in a food processor. It purees some, while big bits will be stuck to the sides in an ugly mess. However, I want basically an onion puree to flavour the meat evenly, with no chunks in my final ball. So a longer whizzzy-whiz would bring up the goods with no effort.
The bread is there to allow the moisture and in turn the flavour of the meat to stay in the meatball and not leak out into the sauce, but also the flavours from the sauce to find a way in and add that extra bit of flavour.
- For the meatballs
- 600g Pork mince
- 1 onion
- 1 slice of fresh bread
- 10 -12 fresh sage leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- Salt n pepper
- For the Sauce
- 1 jar passata
- A sprig of fresh thyme – or 1 level teaspoon of dried.
- A sprig of fresh oregano – or 1 level teaspoon of dried.
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt n pepper
- 2 cups or 400 g white long grain rice (or tagliatelle pasta, see note at the end of recipe)
- Peel and roughly chop the onion, and place in the food processor, rip up the bread and add with the paprika.
- Turn on the machine (in a commercial kitchen it’s referred to as either “Blitz“, “Blitzing” or sometimes “whizzing“) and run until there are no large pieces left and it is evenly chopped. you may need to stop the machine a couple of times and use a scraper to get larger bits off the side of the bowl.
- With the processor is running, drop the sage leaves in and then add some pork mince a little at a time until all in there and combined.
- Season well with salt cracked black pepper
- Turn off the machine, (unplug it too to be safe) Take about a tablespoon of mix and with wet hands or while wearing food grade gloves is better, form into a ball. Aim for a golf or ping pong ball sort of size, a slight variation among each is not an issue.
- Put the ball into a large casserole or baking dish, and repeat . The balls can touch, but it is best if they are a single layer.
- Pour the passata, oil, vinegar and sugar into the now empty bowl of the food processor, “whiz” to combine. this also has the added effect of collecting any remnants of the meat mix.
- Pour the sauce onto the meatballs.
- Rip up the sauce herbs and sprinkle on top, season the whole dish and drizzle a little more olive oil over the top. – if however using dried herbs, stir them into the sauce or they will burn.
- Cover and bake at 160°C 325°F for 45 minutes. check occasionally to ensure not loosing too much moisture, add boiling water if needed and stir in gently.
- About 20 mins before serving prepare the rice by placing the measured amount in a pan, covering with enough cold water that there is a layer as deep to the first knuckle of the middle finger.
- Bring rice to boil, then turn off heat, put a lid on and allow to stand and absorb the moisture. DO NOT LIFT LID!
- Remove the lid of the casserole and add a sprinkling of cheese, this can be mixed with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs for extra crunch. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.
- Serve to your hungry guests who will be able to smell the yumminess.
Note that is you prefer these go really well with a pasta instead of rice. I prefer a simple pasta, like tagliatelle or spaghetti, but have also served with a ricotta and spinach ravioli with success.