There must be a thousand recipes out there for meatballs. This recipe is a little different. I was intrigued and inspired by an article in the NY Times for Spicy Meatballs with Chickpeas by David Tanis. I have a couple of his cookbooks and admire his simplicity. There is no bread in his meatball mix, he uses raw (yes, raw) arborio or white rice as a binder, so it’s gluten free.
The original recipe calls for ground lamb, which was not in my freezer, and North African seasonings. This is when you call on kitchen creativity and courage. I did have a pound package of bulk country sausage and one of ground turkey. It was sounding like my meatballs would be more Italian than North African.
This recipe is endlessly adaptable to whatever ground meat and flavorings you have on hand. The meatballs were juicy and delicious, the rice absorbing the flavors of the sauce and the meat.
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
- 1 ½ pounds ground meat (ground beef, pork, turkey, sausage or a combination)
- ½ cup raw arborio rice or any white rice, rinsed and drained
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- 3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
FOR THE SAUCE:
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 quart of jarred Italian pasta sauce, whatever you have in your pantry or freezer
- A couple of handfuls of chopped kale, chard or baby spinach, chopped (optional)
- Grated Parmesan for serving
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine ground meat, raw rice, salt, red pepper flakes, cumin, Italian seasoning, onion and garlic. Knead mixture well.
- Line with a sheet pan or roasting pan with foil for easier cleanup. Coat it lightly with olive oil. With wet hands, form mixture into 1-ounce meatballs and arrange in one layer on pan. Bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, reheat your pasta sauce.
- Carefully add meatballs and adjust heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add the kale, chard or spinach and cook until just wilted.
- Serve with pasta (gluten free) and sprinkle with parmesan.
Of course you could make your own tomato sauce, that would be even more delicious.
The greens are optional, I was looking for a way to add some vegetables but you could leave them out if it’s the end of the week and your produce drawer is down to the last wilted scallion.
I found an almost empty jar of Kalamata olives and tossed them in, capers would be good, anchovies anyone?