Sunday, June 30, 2013

Beef Meatballs with Orecchiette, Kale and Pine Nuts

After my last couple of pasta dishes, I took a pause for the cause. I didn't find them very good and haven't felt the need to maintain that streak. I'm hoping this one, a Ramsay recipe, knocks the shit out of the park and puts me back on a righteous pasta path.

I was a little hesitant about it because it seems really burly but with kale and pine nuts, it's gotta be good. Below is my Americanized version of the recipe with only slight adaptations.

Beef Meatballs with Orecchiette, Kale and Pine Nuts
adapted from Channel 4
click to print

4 tbsp olive oil, divided 1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced, 2 of them finely sliced
fresh-ground pepper
1 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 lb ground beef
75 g fresh bread crumbs
3–4 tbsp milk
1 lb dried orecchiette
bunch of kale between 150-200 g, shredded
4 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Sauté the onion and finely sliced garlic with salt and pepper, about 5 minutes or until soft and lightly colored, adding the chilli flakes after a minute or two.

Place the mince in a large bowl and add seasoning.

Put the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and moisten with the milk.

Stir the breadcrumbs and onion mixture into the mince and combine well.

With wet hands, shape the mince mixture into small balls about 2 cm wide. Transfer to a lightly greased plate or tray and chill for 30 minutes until firm.

The meatballs will be smaller than an inch since there are 2.54 cm in an inch. My meatballs, all 74 of them, were refrigerated for 45 minutes while I made some frosting for cupcakes.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the remaining one tablespoon olive oil.

I threw in one of the meatballs to see if it sizzled. After it started sizzling, I proceeded.

Brown the meatballs for 6 minutes until colored on all sides. Drain and discard fat.

Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until tender.

Add the kale and season. Sweat the kale over a medium heat for 5 minutes with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water from the pasta.

Ok, so my kale wasn't exactly shredded.

Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, then stir in the pine nuts.

Drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of cooking water.

After cooking for 8 minutes, I drained the pasta, neglecting to reserve some cooking water.

Tip the pasta into the pan with the meatballs and stir over a medium-low heat until well mixed.

Add a good handful of finely grated parmesan, and mix well with a little cooking water to help coat the pasta.

Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Serve garnished with another grating of parmesan if you like.

I burnt the everlovin' bejesus out of my tongue and lip when making an attempt at determining whether the little ears were al dente. An ear was open-side down on the spatula and I slurped it off the tool, finding that there was a little pocket of boiling water captured under the pasta. Damn. And then with that, I accidentally dumped the pasta cooking water out with the pasta. Damn! That was all because I scooped out the fat from the meatball pan and then thought the kale/garlic/meatballs were burning while I was clutching my face. Not my smoothest moments.

Nothing was burnt. The dish is a little dry so make sure to save some pasta water like the recipe recommends. And mine definitely turned out a little salty and I attribute that to my over-salting the pasta water. I put a lot of salt in the water and man, the ears were loaded with it. Maybe good for summer, especially days like this when it's 100°F and I'm sweating like a big cow, and the ol' sodium-potassium pumps are running low on juice. Meaty, loaded with pasta, with surprising and tasty pine nuts. I wish I had the full 200 g of kale instead of just 156, so get a big bunch. Next time, I'll do just that.

Overall, this was a somewhat busy little recipe that took a little longer than I'd expected but the flavors make up for it. My favorite part? How the orecchiette are thick and toothsome and shaped like little bowls just large enough to contain a little meatball or a couple of pine nuts.

  • olive oil: $0.24
  • onion: $0.30
  • garlic cloves: $0.24
  • ground beef: $2.99
  • bread crumbs: $0.60
  • milk: $0.09
  • orecchiette: $3.99
  • kale: $1.49
  • pine nuts: $1.81
  • parmesan cheese: $0.06
Total: $11.81 or about $2.95 for each of four huge servings or $1.97 for each of six smaller, but still filling, servings.