Thursday, June 19, 2008

Turkey and Pork Meatballs with Orecchiette Pasta and Spinach-Almond Pesto

I know this pasta dish looks completely ridiculous. I was in something of hunger-induced hurry to get to the eating part of the evening, and I didn't take the time I should have to photograph what ended up being a wonderful meal.

Dave and I had my lovely new friend Jessi over for dinner a few weeks ago, and if you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that means we had to eat something both New and Interesting. I'd recently brought the Top Chef cookbook home, and Dave promptly picked this recipe. (You can see the second recipe chosen from this book here.)

I am lucky to work across the street from where I live, so I popped home at lunch to mix the meatballs and ball them and make the pesto. I like getting as much as possible done before we have company, makes for easier chatting and whatnot.

The meatballs came together perfectly well. I always find it funny when making balls of things. You try to make them uniform, and you think you are, until you're done and you can see the ball progression.... little by little, they all get bigger and bigger. This leads me to....

Holy Garlic Whoa. Did you see how much garlic is in the pesto? Whoa 12 garlics, whoa. It wasn't too much flavor-wise (at least, I didn't think so), so don't let it scare you. Honestly, you only use enough pesto to coat, and that small amount needs to do the job of flavoring the vegetables and pasta - so it should be strong. But man, 12 garlics is scary. I don't know why we planned to serve our guest so many garlics her first night over, but she's still nice to me, so I guess I'm safe.

I will tell you that the recipe lies. Yes, it was on Top Chef, and they have time limits and all that, but its still television - and television is often fibbing. The mass of vegetables need more than 5 minutes to cook. Maybe more like 20. And while the big carrots are charming, their bigness makes it really difficult to stir the vegetables around with the pasta and meatballs. Just my two cents - these two grievances are easily manageable and don't detract much from the overall experience.

And that overall experience? Very good. This was a nice, wholesome dish. The possible heaviness of the pasta and vegetables is easily brightened by the pesto. The pasta, in fact, provided a nice bite as compared to the vegetables. Lots of steps, sure, but uncomplicated ones, and well worth it.

I am excited to be able to share this pasta with Ruth of Once Upon A Feast. She is the creater of Presto Pasta Nights (check out its new home!!) and one of the nicest people in the blogosphere. She is hosting PPN this week, so make sure to look for her round-up tomorrow!

Turkey and Pork Meatballs with Orecchiette Pasta and Spinach-Almond Pesto
c/o Top Chef: The Cookbook
recipe by Casey and Dale, Season 3, Episode 6

Turkey and pork meatballs:
½ pound ground turkey
½ pound ground pork
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons white wine
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon red pepper chile flakes
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed

Vegetables and pasta:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup baby carrots
One 14-ounce jar artichoke hearts, each cut in half
1 packed cup fresh spinach leaves
1 tablespoon white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound orecchiette pasta, cooked al dente

Spinach-Almond Pesto, recipe follows

For the meatballs:
In a large bowl, stir together all the meatball ingredients except the oil and form into meatballs about ¾ inch in diameter.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking and cook the meatballs, in batches, turning them as they cook, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add more oil to the skillet with new batches as necessary. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a wire rack to drain. Set aside.

For the vegetables and pasta:
In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cauliflower, carrots, and artichokes and sauté until softened but al dente, about 5 minutes.

Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute, or until just wilted. Add the wine and cook until evaporated. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Add the orecchiette and meatballs to the vegetables and stir to combine. Add enough pesto to coat, then heat to warm through. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.

Spinach-Almond Pesto
10 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole, plus 2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
4 ounces fresh spinach, plus more as needed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the whole garlic and oil to a bare simmer over low heat and poach until softened and lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

Combine the cooked garlic along with its cooking oil in a food processor. Add the minced raw garlic, the almonds, spinach, cheese, lemon juice, wine and salt and pepper to taste and puree. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Set aside until you’re ready to assemble the dish.


Ruth Daniels said...

Aw're sweet too! Thanks for a great post and a fantastic dish to share with Presto Pasta Nights.

Dharm said...

Trying to take decent photos of food is always a challenge when there are hungry mouths around!! Your pic looks great anyway. And that pasta dish is absolutely fabulous! Thanks for adding me on FB

Jj said...

That pasta dish sound very good and your picture turned out nice, I thought! Twelve garlics does sound like a lot, but at least garlic is good for you! :)