Meatballs with pasta
In an attempt to reduce my intake of red meat I’ve been trying to find a good turkey meatballs recipe. For obvious reasons turkey mince doesn’t have that rich depth of flavour of beef and many of the recipes I’ve tried have been disappointing. I eventually started to tinker with some of my more trustworthy beef mince recipes and have now managed to create what I think is the perfect, healthy alternative. You have to pay extra careful attention to make sure the meatballs are cooked through but this recipe really lifts the flavour.
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 12 cream crackers
- 2 heaped teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 large egg
- 500g minced turkey
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil
- fresh basil
- 1 large onion, peeled, finely chopped
- olive oil
- 400g dried penne pasta
- 800g tinned chopped tomatoes (two 400g tins)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
- 1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded, finely sliced
- 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
First you need to prepare the meatballs and set them aside in the fridge for when you’re ready for the next stage, which is to make the pasta and the sauce.
Break up the crackers as finely as possible.
Remove the rosemary leaves from the stalk and chop them up.
Put the crackers and rosemary in a bowl and add the mustard, minced meat, and oregano.
Crack the egg and add to the bowl.
Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Use your hand to combine everything as evenly as possible.
Divide the mixture in four equal portions.
Then, wet your hands and divide each of these portions into six equal lumps and rolling each around in your hand to form a meatball. This will give you 24.
Drizzle olive oil over them and roll them around to coat them.
Put them on a plate, cover with plastic film or foil, and put in the fridge until you need them.
Pasta, Meatballs, and Sauce
Put on a large saucepan of water to boil. Add a teaspoon of salt.
Put a large frying pan on medium heat and add some olive oil.
Stir in the onion and stir fry for around 7 minutes until soft and turning gold.
Add the chilli and garlic and continue stirring.
Add the larger basil leaves, reserving the smaller ones for later.
Add the tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar.
Bring to the boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a second frying pan, add some oil, and then the meatballs.
Keep stirring the meatballs for around 8-10 minutes without burning, but check by cutting one in half to make sure it’s not pink inside.
Then add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and simmer.
After this, fill a saucepan for the pasta with water and bring to the boil.
Add the pasta to the boiling water in the saucepan and cook according to packet instructions.
Continue simmering the meatballs and the sauce until the pasta is ready.
Drain the pasta and save some of the water.
Return the pasta to the saucepan. Add around half of the sauce (without meatballs) and pour in some of the reserved pasta water to loosen the pasta.
Serve out the pasta on to plates or into bowls and then add to each plate the remaining sauce with the meatballs.
Sprinkle each plate with grated Parmesan cheese and garnish with the reserved smaller basil leaves.
To break up the crackers, you could put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Or you could wrap them in a tea towel and squeeze them until finely crumbled.
Because turkey can be drier than beef, it’s a good idea to break the meatballs in half while stirring into the sauce, helping the sauce to reach more of the meat.
To shape the meatballs, you could wear disposable plastic gloves.
The humble meatball features in the cuisines and recipes of most countries and is thought to have originated as far back as the 3rd century BC in East China’s Shandong province. The Chinese recipe for “Four Joy Meatballs” derives from the cuisine of Shandong. The ancient Roman cookbook Apicius included some meatball-type recipes, and recipes are found in some of the earliest Arabic cookbooks, some as large as 8 inches in diameter.