Dinner with Kirsten

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The Mini-Meatball and Pasta Dinner

March 31st, 2008 · 66 Comments

I’m always looking for a new way to jazz up a mostly-store-bought pasta meal. While shopping the Upper West Side gourmet markets this weekend (Fairway and Zabar’s), I picked up fresh spinach ravioli and a killer Lidia Bastianich brand marinara sauce. But is it really a meal without meat? On impulse, I bought some ground beef from a corner store and decided to make meatballs.

Luckily, my Soprano’s cookbook was shoved into Geoff’s bookcase, ready and waiting for its call to duty. I knew exactly what I wanted. I didn’t feel like baking or waiting. I wanted mini-meatballs. These happy little nuggets of meat brown quickly on the outside, then cook through as you simmer the sauce. They’re caramelized on the surface, packed with flavor on the inside, and the grated Parmesan makes them surprisingly light. I finished the meal off with a lettuce salad sprinkled with balsamic and olive oil and some crusty Italian bread.

The Soprano’s Mini-Meatballs
Adapted from The Soprano’s Family Cookbook

1/2 pound ground beef (or beef and pork)
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs (preferably fresh homemade, but I just used panko that I had sitting in my cupboard)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (for browning meat)

Throw all the ingredients except the oil into a large bowl and mix them up with your hands. Then wash your hands with cold water and form the meat into balls the size of a small grape.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add meatballs and brown them on each side. (Some may break apart, but that’s okay. Just make sure you’re letting them brown long enough on one side before trying to turn them over.) Add the jar of sauce to the pan. (Be careful, it will splatter!) Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes to cook the meatballs through, adding some water to the sauce if needed.

Meanwhile, I hope you’re cooking your pasta of choice! Add al dente pasta to the simmering sauce and let them finish cooking together for a few minutes. This way, the pasta will soak up some of the sauce.

When ready to serve, sprinkle any extra cheese and parsley over the top and give it a little drizzle of olive oil. Yumm!

Tags: dinner · italian · quick fix · recipes

66 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kelsey Vala // Mar 31, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    You make everything sounds so good. You need to slow down on giving recipes so I can start catching up with you!

  • 2 Kate (aka Kathy, your aunt in St. Louis) // May 6, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Oooo ~ this is when the tomato paste in a tube {from the comments in (Almost-like-Grandma’s) cinnamon rolls)} comes in reeeeeally handy!

    Take your favorite jarred sauce, squeeze in a tablespoon (or two) of tomato paste, throw in some fresh chopped oregano, a little crushed red pepper, a pinch of salt and simmer … and just before serving, add some fresh basil. Yum!

    Er, hope you don’t mind me butting in… *blushes*

  • 3 Kirsten // May 7, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Yumm! That sounds great!! :)

  • 4 Sylvia Davis // Sep 23, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Great Job Kirsten! This is a ‘real’ meatball recipe! Growing up in Western NY, we had pasta with sugu every Sunday. Out here in Nebraska, friends would comment “What? You add cheese to the raw meat?” Most of the time Nonna would bake the meatballs in a broiler pan to catch the drippings before adding to the saucepot. She had to make dozens at a time for the massive family dinners. Hope to see you this Fall!

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