Cookbook 182: Epic Meatballs

Yeah, brace yourselves because this is not going to be a good ride. I bought Epic Meatballs: 120 next-level meatball recipes including recipes for sides, sauces and garnishes by Matteo Bruno because I love meatballs. What a great concept, a whole lot of stuff, meat or veg, in a ball, with a sauce. You may remember The Bowlers Meatball which I cooked from ages ago, and which I’ve gone back to. Great book, highly recommended. This book by Bruno? Terrible book, don’t recommend. In fact, if someone gives you this cookbook as a gift, they probably don’t like you.

So what is wrong with this book? I’d suggest that Bruno didn’t actually test any of the recipes, and wrote down what he thought he did, versus what he actually does. There are other things, the Chunky Italian Red Sauce is measured in weight (kilograms/pounds) and the meatball recipe that calls for that sauce asks for it in volume (litres/ounces). The vegetarian meatball I cooked (there are very few vegetarian recipes in this book), completely failed, actually being too liquid to cook. The meat meatball had little structural integrity. I give this book 1 star out of 5. Stay clear.

Meatballs Rustico (makes 24 meatballs)

Ingredients:

  • 400g minced pork
  • 300g minced beef
  • 300g minced veal
  • 4 slices white bread
  • 100ml milk
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped (or minced)
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 30g, flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 50g finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 160g fresh ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, plus 1 yolk, lightly whisked
  • 2 litres chunky Italian red sauce
  • 50g/1 large bunch basil, leaves picked and torn

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, season the pork, beef and veal with salt and pepper. Soak the bread in the milk, then remove any excess milk by squeezing the bread in your hand. Tear up the bread into small pieces and add it to the meat.
  2. Add the garlic and onion, parsley, chilli flakes, nutmeg, parmesan and ricotta cheese. Finally, add the egg to the meat mixture and fold everything together with your hands. Roll 60g portions into balls and place them on a tray.
  3. Pour the Red Sauce into a heavy-based saucepan over low heat and bring it to a gentle simmer. Tear up the basil leaves and add them to the sauce. Gently introduce the meatballs into the liquid one at a time, starting from the outside of the pot and working your way into the centre. Cook at a gentle simmer for 16 – 18 minutes. Once cooked, these meatballs should be tender and falling apart.

Notes on this recipe:

  • The meatballs started falling apart as they got into the liquid. See earlier comment about structural integrity. Not all of them fell apart (otherwise I would not have that photo), but the sauce definitely had a lot of meat in it after they were all cooked
  • They did taste good, but the texture was odd, very little bite, quite tender.
  • You can just use bolognese mince instead of buying all the mince separately

Chickpea and cauliflower (makes 24)

Ingredients:

  • 750g tinned chickpeas
  • 500ml milk
  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 30g/1 small bunch, coriander leaves picked and chopped
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 50g finely grated parmesan cheese
  • olive oil spray (if baking)
  • vegetable oil (if frying)

Method:

  1. Blitz the majority of the chickpeas in a foot processor until smooth. Keep some of the whole chickpeas aside to add some texture inside the balls.
  2. Pour the milk into a large saucepan, add the cauliflower florets and place over medium heat, ensuring the milk doesn’t boil. Cook until the cauliflower is soft. Blitz most of the cauliflower and milk in a food processor, keeping aside some of the cauliflower florets to add a different texture to the balls. Once blitzed and cooled, combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and fold everything together using your hands. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  3. If baking, preheat the oven to 180C.
  4. Gently roll the mixture into 60g balls and carefully place them into half-sphere silicon moulds. Alternatively, place the balls into a baking tray sprayed with olive oil. Ensure all the balls are placed neatly together so that they touch the balls next to them. This will help the balls keep their shape. Bake in the dry oven for 8 minutes.
  5. If frying, pour vegetable oil into a large saucepan until it’s at least half full and place over medium-high heat until the oil reaches approximately 160 – 180C. The oil is ready when breadcrumbs sizzle but do not burn when added to the oil. Once it’s the correct temperature, drop in a few balls, one at a time, and cook until golden. This should take around 2 – 4 minutes. Remove them from the oil and place them on paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
  6. Serve while hot

Notes on this recipe:

  • The mixture was so soggy, you could squeeze liquid out of it and it wouldn’t hold together. I kept adding bread crumbs until it started to have some kind of internal consistency. I wouldn’t add the milk to the cauliflower while blitzing it, that’s where most of the excess liquid came from.
  • This is an interesting flavour combination, but not something I actually like. The texture was also odd, perhaps add crushed nuts or something to actually give it some texture.
  • I oven baked ours, because I didn’t have time to deep fry them in batches for an age, and they took longer than the 8 minutes to look cooked.
  • The lack of time on how long it should take for the cauliflower to cook was also annoying

Chunky Italian Red Sauce (makes 1.4kgs)

(No photo because the sauce is visible in the other photos)

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 kg fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 brown onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 800g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 50g/large bunch basil, leaves picked and torn

Method:

  1. Start by heating up a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan over hight heat until it starts to smoke. Add the fresh tomato and stir around the pan until they take on some colour and begin to break down. You need to get the pan very hot so that the natural sugars in the tomato come out the moment they make contact with the hot oil.
  2. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook while stirring for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and tomato paste. Once the onion has been partially cooked add the tinned tomato, reduce the heat to low and cook for at least 1 hour or until reduced by around half.
  3. Season with salt and lots of pepper, and add the torn basil leaves at the end. Finish with another good drizzle of olive oil.

Notes on this receipe:

  • This was fine. Makes enough tomato sauce for both recipes, well it did when I made it.

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