Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4

I’m not sure how you couldn’t love meatballs and I’m especially unsure how you couldn’t love these ones: with the herbs, the cheeses, the pine nuts (and some extra pistachios we added) and more grated Parmesan to serve, they’re awesome.

Prepare the meat mixture in the morning, head out to lunch and come Saturday night, open a bottle of red, put some music on and enjoy some truly excellent meatballs and sauce.

Seriously, they’re excellent.

Ingredients

3/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
40gm parsley, roughly chopped
5g basil or rosemary, roughly chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra to serve)
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 egg
500gm minced pork or beef

Sauce

2 x 400gm tinned tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine

Method

  1. Heat half the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and pine nuts over a low heat until the onion is soft and the pine nuts are golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more and then set aside to cool.
  2. Put the herbs, fennel seeds, breadcrumbs, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest and egg in a bowl and add the mince. Add the cooled onion mixture, season well with salt and freshly cracked pepper and mix until all the ingredients are combined. Set aside the mixture to rest in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
  3. Roll the meatballs about the size of a walnut and flatten slightly to make it easier to cook on both sides.
  4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the meatballs until golden on both sides; do two batches if necessary in order to avoid overcrowding. Remove and set aside.
  5. For the sauce: Add the tinned tomatoes and wine to the saucepan over a medium heat, breaking up the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently add the meatballs to the sauce and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
  6. Serve with a good sprinkling of Parmesan and some fresh basil leaves.

Spinach and Ricotta Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Serves: 4

So you have a new baby and cooking lobster tet-a-tet on a Monday night is no longer the priority.

Or possible.

And so you have this dish.

A dish which is simple, healthy and newborn-in-the-house friendly.

We speak from experience!

It isn’t going to set the world on fire though conversely, season well and serve with some steamed green beans and you have a really respectable Monday night dinner on your hands.

And lunch the next day for when the new baby is still at it and lobster tet-a-tet is remains off the menu.

Ingredients

250gm baby spinach
4 tbsp (light) ricotta
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Three pinches of nutmeg
4 chicken breasts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
50gm fresh breadcrumbs, seasoned
3 zucchini, cut into batons
2 red peppers, seeded and sliced
2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
250gm vine cherry tomatoes
4 garlic cloves (left in skin)
Steamed green beans to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200c.
  2. Put the spinach in a large colander and pour over a kettle of boiling water to wilt. Allow to drain for a few minutes and then squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop, put in a bowl and beat in the ricotta, lemon zest, nutmeg and plenty of seasoning.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit into the side of each chicken breast and use your fingers to make a pocket. Spoon the spinach mixture into the 4 breasts. Rub with some of the olive oil and press the seasoned breadcrumbs on top. Arrange the chicken in a roasting tin.
  4. Put the vegetables in another tray baking tin and drizzle with oil and season well.
  5. Back the chicken and vegetables for 30 – 35 minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally. Remove once the chicken is cooked through and the breadcrumbs are golden.
  6. Remove the softened garlic from the vegetables and remove the flesh; mash the flesh with the lemon juice, mix through the roasted vegetables and serve with the chicken and steamed beans.

Ravioli al sole with Truffle Butter broth and Pecorino

 

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Stupefacente!
Serves: 2 – 4 as a starter

Late last year, I typed up Armando Percuoco’s Truffle Egg Pasta, a gorgeous – and outrageous – pasta made famous at his restaurant, Buon Ricordo.

In my write-up of the recipe, I said do it and certainly, if you haven’t, I still highly recommend you do.

Though if you have, here is your next recipe along the same line.

It is from Tobie Puttock from whose book The Chef Gets Healthy we have been cooking recently. This recipe however, isn’t about getting healthy.

It’s about living the good life.

In his foreword, Tobie explains that he was taught the recipe by Gennaro Contaldo who in turn is famously Jamie Oliver’s Italian mentor; Tobie ran the restaurant Fifteen for Jamie Oliver.

So there is also a bit of heritage to it all as well.

Anyway, we cooked this as a starter a few weeks ago and it is excellent. Actually, more like superb.

Truffle, pasta, butter, ricotta, pecorino and egg superb. Poaching the egg in the stock after blanching the pasta in the boiling water is a neat trick with the ultimate treat being a runny, yellow egg yolk opening up all over the pasta as you eat it.

Yum!

For by-far the best result, make your own pasta and have a fun afternoon in the kitchen like we did. And an incredible starter on your hands following that.

Do it!

Ingredients

⅓ cup (80gm) fresh ricotta
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp grated pecorino, plus extra to serve
100gm salted butter, softened
1 tbsp truffle oil (or 2 tsp truffle paste)
40cm thin fresh pasta sheet
4 free-range egg yolks
300ml vegetable stock

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Place ricotta on a lined baking tray, season then drizzle with 2 tsp of olive oil. Bake for 12 minutes or until slightly browned and dry. Cool. Mix ricotta with pecorino, 2 tsp olive oil and a pinch of talk and cover and chill until needed.
  2. Combine butter and truffle oil (or paste) in a bowl. Cover and chill until needed.
  3. Lay pasta flat on a bench. Cut into eight, 10cm squares. Shape ricotta into 4 rounds. Place each one in the centre of 4 pasta squares. Lightly flatten the ricotta with your palm and with your fingers, make a deep well in the centre. Pop an egg yolk in each well.
  4. Brush a little water around the pasta edges then carefully top with the remaining pasta sheets. Use your fingers and a fork to seal the pasta, pushing out as much air as possible while taking care not to break the yolk.
  5. Gently heat the stock in a large frying pan over a low heat. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
  6. Plunge the ravioli into the boiling water for 45 seconds then carefully remove with a slotted spoon and place in the stock, egg yolk side up to finish cooking.
  7. Add truffled butter, in pieces and gently shake pan for 3 minutes until it melts into the stock and the pasta is al dente.
  8. Season, divide ravioli and sauce among bowls, then top with extra pecorino.

Whole-Wheat Linguine with Green Beans, Ricotta and Lemon

Serves 6

This is Giada de Laurentiis’ dish and continues the theme that everything I have cooked of hers has been great.

It is an unassuming recipe and its simplicity is its strength; it’s clean, it’s healthy and it has a mellow, consistent and creamy texture. It’s also very tasty.

I don’t know if I’d serve it to the Queen Mother, though as a Monday night meal, it’s perfect.

For what it’s worth, I doubled some ingredients and this is reflected in the recipe below.

Ingredients

1 pack of Whole-wheat linguine
1 cup low-fat ricotta
3tbs olive oil
500g French green beans, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1tsp salt
1/3 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 c halved cherry tomatoes
1 lemon, zested

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
  2. Add the pasta and cook until cooked. Drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water.
  3. Transfer the drained pasta to a large bowl and add the ricotta cheese and toss to combine.
  4. Meanwhile, in a heavy pan, heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat.
  5. Add the green beans, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the cup of cooking water and continue cooking until tender; another few minutes, being careful not to overcook the beans.
  6. Add the pasta with the ricotta to the pan, and toss to combine.
  7. Add the tomatoes and gently toss.
  8. Transfer to serving plate and top with lemon zest.