Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bucatini All'Amatriciana with Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs

This is a recipe I found on one of the many food blogs I often read, and I have to tell you that I'm generally a meatball hater.  I know, we shouldn't be haters, but I usually hate meatballs.  Probably because most of the time to me they just taste like, well, a hamburger or maybe meatloaf. Bleh.  But for some reason this recipe caught my eye and I knew I had to try it, possibly because I knew Derk would probably like it.  So, after a few changes to the recipe I found, we came up with this:


1/2 an onion, grated
1/2 C chopped fresh parsley
2 oz. (1/2 cup) fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 C bread crumbs (we used panko)
1 1/2 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T ketchup
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
fresh ground black pepper
8 oz. ground sirloin (all we could find was hamburger)
8oz. ground turkey
2 oz. smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 18 cubes

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the rack set in the lower 1/3 of the oven.
-In a large bowl, stir together onion, parsley, Parmesan, bread crumbs, garlic, ketchup, egg, salt, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, and pepper.  Add in beef and turkey-combine ingredients just until combined, be careful not to overmix.
-Shape the mixture into 18 meatballs (though we wound up with 16) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Make an indent in the center of each meatball and set a cube of mozzarella inside.  Reform the meatball around the mozzarella so it is completely hidden.  Place into the oven and bake until cooked through.  Ours took about 20 to 25 minutes.


1 T olive oil
4 oz. diced pancetta
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
14.5 oz. can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
fresh ground black pepper
2 oz. (1/2 Cup) of fresh grated smoked mozzarella cheese (original recipe said Pecorino Romano, but we didn't want to buy more cheese and already had a bunch of the mozzarella)
16 oz. dry bucatini pasta, or other fun, short pasta shape

-In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium.  Add pancetta-cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and transfer to paper-lined plate.  Stir in the onion, cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes and reserved pancetta, season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Simmer over medium-low, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

-While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and place in a large bowl.  Add sauce and meatballs, tossing gently to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Just before serving, sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley.

--My notes:  OK, I know this recipe seems a little daunting, long and time consuming.  But it didn't take all that much time.  It's not a quick and easy one, true, but the final result and effort will be totally worth it.  Because Derk and I loved this recipe!  And we also liked using the smoked mozzarella in the sauce (instead of Pecorino, which is probably good, too, we just didn't want to spring for more cheese), we felt that it sort of tied everything together and added a really nice flavor.  The original recipe said that it should serve about 6 people, but we found that for us it was probably a little closer to 4 servings, particularly for the sauce, even considering the fact that it's not really a saucy kind of dish.  The meatballs freeze well.  If you like things a bit spicier, you could try adding in a little more red pepper flakes and garlic.  The amounts in this post were decreased by about half from the recipe I found.  Try this one out, it's really quite delicious.

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