Oozy, luscious tomato and tender meatballs – bowlfood turns soulfood.
This recipe was top of my list from first thumb of At My Table; the kind of weekend autumn/winter one pot dish you make when the drizzle is non-stop and you want to be warmed from the inside out. The meatballs from Bites and turkey version from Kitchen are firm favourites with everyone in our house, and let’s face it: clean plates, full tums and happy faces pretty much sums up my life mission. Much as I trot out the old, “This is not a restaurant,” line and say I’m not going to make more than one dinner, little noses do turn up at some things. Meatballs are one I can make in complete confidence seconds will be requested; plus I can usually stash some leftovers in the freezer for time-poor evenings. I’m quickly realising this recipe actually had a lot to live up to. I’ll ‘fess up early on – the mince I had was pork, not beef, but often I mix both together, so I didn’t think it’d be much of a leap to do all-pork. Otherwise I stopped myself freestyling too much – the urge to throw fennel seeds in was strong, but I resisted.
Like the other meatball recipes, it was a two stage process – meatballs first, then sauce. The meatballs were as easy as mixing together the meat, breadcrumbs, parmesan, egg and parsley, then forcing yourself to make them all roughly the same walnut-size. With the boys out swimming, some repetitive, factory-line work was quite calming; meat-hands and little people needing things do not go together well. With my lovely tray lined with pink rows, I set about the sauce, which was as tricky as softening onion, adding the oregano, garlic and tomatoes and what seemed like a lot of water. I wasn’t sure at this stage, but I trust this woman, so carried on. Sauce simmering, meatballs plonked in after ten minutes and twenty after that, in went the orzo. I don’t cook with orzo much, so clamped the lid on and hoped for the best, forgetting the line in the recipe which said to stir…..ten or fifteeen minutes later I discovered my error, but managed to scrape any little sticky bits from the bottom of the pan with a silicone spatula and all was well.
The verdict? Such a nice dish, with all I’m looking for in one pan: flavour, cosiness and crowd-pleasing. The boys loved it, as did the grown ups, and although it said serves 4-6, there was easily enough for 6 greedy people, so I was able to stash some little portions for busy times too. So tasty, straightforward to make and the orzo pasta made for a nice, risotto-like texture and gives the meatballs a whole new, fancified vibe. Cook this. It is good.