Thursday, 7 April 2011

A proper family meal- meatballs and spaghetti

I think mince is fantastic- a really versatile ingredient that you can use to create so many family meals that are tasty and economical. You can buy ready made mince (as always try and get as good a quality as possible- preferably organic) or you can get your butcher to mince down a cut of meat for you.

A real favourite in our household is meatballs and spaghetti. You can choose the meat that you prefer but I feel this works best with lamb mince (or  mix of lamb and beef if you wish) since it tends to be more succulent.

I really really really don't understand why anyone would pay extra money to buy ready-made meatballs (or burgers) to that matter. It is not at all complicated or time consuming to make your own, its cheaper and you know exactly what is in your meatballs.

The following recipe generously serves a family of four:

Put 500g mince into a large bowl and add 2 chopped shallots, 2 chopped garlic cloves, half an apple grated (you won't taste this but keeps them very moist and adds some fruit to your meal without anyone realising!), dash worcestershire sauce, few drops of tabasco, handful of basil finely chopped seasoning

Give everything a good mix so that it is combined and then break off small amounts and roll into balls and place into a pan sprayed with spray oil (you really should not need to add extra oil since the mince is quite fatty naturally).

Fry over a medium-high heat until they are browned all over (gently shake the pan or use a spoon to turn them to brown all over).

Once they have browned at this point I like to drain off the oil- you don't need to do this (and I will admit that some of the flavour is in that oil) but for watching the amount of fat in our diet I do spoon off the most obvious amounts. Tip the pan with the meatballs at the top of the pan so that the fat drains down and spoon it off into a cup.

Now traditionally you wouldn't add vegetables to this dish but I like to bulk it out with some and I like getting in extra vegetables where possible. So at this point I add about 10 sliced mushrooms and allow to fry for a few minutes.

Then add 150ml red wine and boil for about 5 mins to boil off most of the alcohol. Then add 400ml chopped tomatoes, 1tbsp tomato puree and 1 tbsp good quality cocoa powder (you won't taste this but it adds real depth to the meal) and then season well and give everything a gentle stir.

Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile cook enough spaghetti for everyone. It is often argued that you should not use spaghetti with this type of sauce since it will not stick but I like it! Taglietelle is another option.

Then add a cup of petit pois (can go in frozen if this is what you are using) to the meatballs and cook for another few minutes.

Add 2 tbsp cream (I use Elmlea single or double depending how rich you would like it). Drain the pasta when al dente and divide between bowls, spooning the meatballs over. I always make sure that everyone gets the same amount of meatballs so there is no fights! Finely grate over some parmesan cheese and black pepper.

This recipe can also be really well-adapted into a lovely pasta bake. Make the meatballs and sauce in the same way but rather than spaghetti cook 250g rigatoni pasta until al dente (about 9 minutes). Drain and then mix the pasta and sauce together and pour into an oven proof dish. Cover with grated cheese. This can be made up to a day in advance and then reheated when needed in a 180 degree C oven for about 30 minutes. Or if you are going to have it as soon as you make it then just put it under a hot grill to melt and brown the cheese. This is a great meal if you are having kids over for a play and lunch or tea since you can prepare it in advance and you have your hands free for monitoring the children!

Til soon....

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