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.
Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
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?
These sausage rolls have been a big hit at parties, movie nights, and TV sporting afternoons. Sausage rolls are part of my English heritage, I remember my grandmother making them. She was wonderful with all kinds of pastry; I’m not nearly so clever. For those of you who are not familiar with them, sausage rolls are similar to “Pigs in Blankets”, an American favorite. But, much, much better! They are traditionally eaten on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas when the servants had a day off (if you lived in the Downton Abbey era).
I’m going to give two sets of directions, one with the sausage made from scratch and one with doctored store bought sausage. I’ve done them both ways, both are good. I’m not talented with pastry and used commercial all butter frozen puff pastry from Pepperidge Farm; but I invite you to make your own if you are so inclined. They would be even better.
This recipe was adapted from one in the New York Times by David Tanis.
Sausage Roll recipe #1 (from scratch)
- 2 pounds port shoulder, not too lean, have it ground coarse (you can have the butcher grind it for you or do this in a food processor with the metal blade)
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon mace
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 1 tablespoon dried
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Sausage Roll recipe #2 (Cheater’s rolls)
Before you make the “cheaters rolls”, check the seasoning of your sausage by frying a bit in a skillet. The sausage may not need any extra spicing up and could be fine as is.
No one needs to know you didn’t make these from scratch.
- 2 pounds mild pork sausage either bulk or removed from casings
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon mace
- 1 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or ½ tablespoon dried
Pastry and Assembly
- 1 package all butter puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
- Defrost the pastry if frozen.
- Mix the pork with all the seasonings in a large bowl, incorporating evenly.
- With wet hands form the sausage into 4 logs or rolls about 9 inches in length. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper
- Working one at a time, roll each pastry sheet into a rectangle approximately 9 by 10 inches, cut in half to make 2 pieces each about 9 by 5 inches.
- Unwrap each sausage roll from the plastic and place it in the center of one rectangle. Wet one of the long edges with a bit of water to seal the pastry and roll it up, tucking in any pastry at the ends.
- With the seam side down, cut each log into 8 pieces.
- Lay the pieces pastry side up (seam down) on the baking sheets and brush with the beaten egg.
- Repeat with the other pastry sheet.
- Bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and brown, and the sausage cooked.
Cool for a few minutes before serving, these are good warm or served at room temperature. They are even good for breakfast the next day reheated in the oven. Serve with a good spicy brown mustard such as the one here
These are excellent with a cold beer (or champagne).