Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pappardelle with a Ragu of Tiny Meatballs

Science! Hurry up and learn to clone people (but not in a scary Island kind of way), so you can make many many more Jamie Olivers. Many. Lots. Enough to go around, I say. Please put me on your list for three Jamies. Thanks.

I am smitten with his show, for sure. I have a lot of love for his books, too. His last one, Cook with Jamie, looks all rough-and-tumble on the cover. Yah, he's smiling... but his arms are crossed... and that knife in the counter? He just stab that in there an then vamp for the camera? Love it.

He's spot on when he says that you can make it all ahead of time. I made the meatballs and sauce while Dave was at a hockey game last week. I stopped at the "toss the meatballs into the sauce"step, before the 10-15 minutes of additional simmering. I let it cool and then put the whole pot in the fridge. The next night, I took the pot out when I got home, placed it on the stove and gave it gentle heat while I made the pasta. In the time it took me to make the pasta start to finish, the sauce and meatballs were ready and we had this amazing dinner. (Makes a great lunch the day after, too!)

You may think it weird to put cinnamon and so much nutmeg into meatballs (its ok, I did too). I even thought it a tad strange to be putting lemon zest into them. You'll get over it. Don't worry. You'll like it. I figured, if I like them in my bolognese, I'd like them in these meatballs. And I did.

These tiny meatballs have something really special going for them: they're tiny. You don't have to fight over them, you don't have to cut into them to get a bite. Just swirl some pasta on your fork and stab a meatball and you're set! Also nice - the sauce wasn't big and bulky. There was just enough to coat the meatballs and the pasta without junking the place up. (However, I don't know if that's normal or just how it turned out that way once I reheated it.)

Now, you don't have to make this recipe ahead. It didn't take long to pull together. I only did so because I had the free time that evening with the husband away, and my beef thawed faster than I thought it would. If we'd had extra leftovers, I am sure this would have made a nice freezer dinner, too.

Pappardelle with a Ragu of Tiny Meatballs
c/o Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook, by Jamie Oliver

This is a fantastic, classic, easy-pleaser of a dish. Make this for a dinner party or for your family and you’ll be incredibly popular! The brilliant thing about it is that you can make the meatballs, the pasta, and the sauce in advance, so when it comes to putting it all together it can be quite quick. If you’re making fresh pasta, try cutting it out using a crinkly cutter as I’ve done in this picture – I think it just takes it to another league. Of course you can use dried pappardelle or tagliatelle instead.

When it comes to the meatballs, I would suggest that you ask your butcher to grind the beef in front of you; that way you know exactly what you’re getting and that it’s nice and fresh. The reason I mention this is because very often (and I’m not for a minute suggesting your butcher is a con-man) ground meat gets treated a little bit like a dustbin for random cuts of meat. So if you can be specific about what you want, you might as well be. Or you can buy the cuts of meat yourself and pulse them up in your food processor when you get home.

Serves 4-6.

1 x basic pasta dough or use 1 lb good-quality dried pappardelle
A knob of butter
Parmesan cheese

For the meatballs
1 lb good-quality coarse ground beef (chuck, skirt or brisket)
1-2 dried chilies, crumbled
A pinch of ground cinnamon
½ a nutmeg, grated
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large free-range or organic egg
A handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Zest of 1 lemon

For the tomato sauce
Olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
A bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks chopped
1 fresh red chili, pierced with the tip of a knife
2 x 14 oz. cans good-quality plum tomatoes
A little swig of red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

If you’re making fresh pappardelle to this first and lay it out on a floured pan while you get on with the meatballs and tomato sauce. To make your meatballs, mix and scrunch together all the meatball ingredients in your hands and shape into marble-sized balls. When rolling the meatballs, run your hands under cold water every now and then – it will help to make the meatballs dense and hold their shape better. Place them in a pan and put in the fridge while you make your tomato sauce.

Get a pan on the heat and add a glug of olive oil to it. Gently fry the garlic, basil stalks and the whole chili, then add the tomatoes and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper then gently simmer for half an hour.

Heat up a little olive oil in a frying pan and throw in your meatballs. Cook until they’ve got a really good color on them, and then add them to your tomato sauce. Remove the chili from the sauce and check for seasoning. Continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, if you’re using dried pasta, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook according to the package instructions. Otherwise, when your meatballs are almost done, cook your fresh pasta for 2 to 3 minutes until al dente. Drain the pappardelle in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, then toss it in the meatball sauce. Add the knob of butter, the Parmesan and tear over half the basil leaves. Now, toss around to coat the pasta. Add a little bit of cooking water to loosen the sauce if needed. When it’s superb, serve on a big platter or divide up between individual plates, scatter with the rest of the basil leaves, grate over some Parmesan and serve as soon as possible.

Matt’s wine suggestion: Italian red – Sangiovese


Deborah said...

I love Jamie, too, but don't have this book. Looks like I'm adding another to the want list!!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

That looks great - nice simple comfort food!

Jules said...

I never usually have much luck with meatballs, but these look not only gorgeous, but failsafe.