Just look at those little devils! They were so tasty! I am pretty in love with this recipe. It's that Rachael Ray recipe I told you about in yesterday's post ... and this time I got pictures ... and plenty of sprinkled basil and parsley! First of all, bocconcini are, apparently, little bocci balls of mozzarella cheese swimming in a salty brine ... I didn't have them hanging in my fridge, but I did have a block of mozzarella. I cut up a slab into six little cubes and used them. How did I use them, you ask?
Ta-dah! The typical meatball mash - bread soaked in milk, egg, parsley, salt, pepper,garlic, Parmesan cheese gets made into a BIG meatball, but first you wrap it around a cube of cheese. It makes the greatest little gooey surprise package when it's cooked ! RR would say, 'Yum-O' at this point.
So after all the meatballs are made, they get a roll in a bit of olive oil and a bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes while the sauce gets thrown together on the stovetop. I halved the amount of meatball mix and we still had six large meatballs for dinner and a leftover lunch. If you're trying to cook for two, it's sometimes difficult to find smallish recipes ... most of the Rachael Ray recipes in Look + Cook are written for four servings. That's perfect for four diners, but I still need to down the amounts, as SB and I have been trying to decrease portions a bit. Incidentally, that garlic clove made the perfect page minder. Don't you hate it when the pages keep flopping over on you and you've got greasy, gloppy fingers?
Back to the sauce, though. This is a fast tomato pesto sauce. I played fast and loose with her ingredients list - used prepared pesto that I'd made a week ago and had in a bowl in the fridge, some leftover tomato sauce from another recipe, some wine that I was sipping while cooking, and fire roasted tomatoes ... I love fire roasted tomatoes! More garlic, parsley, lemon zest, and some chicken stock and a good simmer ...
Incidentally, see that brown bottle? That's a recycled Worcestershire sauce bottle. Those bottles make excellent dispensers for drizzling olive oil or balsamic vinegars, or other sauces that you don't want glopping out all over a dish or plate of food. Those little plastic pop-tops can be snapped on or off and deliver just the right amount of whatever stuff you choose to load the in the bottle. Just sayin' ...
That sauce was simmering away and the meatballs were getting brown and smelling good. I made a happy little Caesar salad with some of our first greens from the garden! Don't you just love Springtime ?
While the linguini fini cooked up, I plated the meatballs and tried really hard not to sample the fare before we sat down together. The meatballs were perfect, no leakage of cheese until I cut into one to 'inspect'. The sauce was a mellow lemon and basil pesto-infused affair. So incredibly good ... for dragging the meatballs through and for topping the pasta. Here's where Rachael utters another perky, 'Yum-O!'. I controlled myself.
Rachael Ray’s Bocconcini Stuffed Meatballs with Tomato Pesto Sauce
4 slices stale white or farmhouse type bread, broken into pieces
Milk, to moisten the bread
2 ½ lb. ground meat mix – pork, veal, and beef mix
3 garlic cloves, minced
Generous handful, flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped plus ½ c. leaves intact
¾ c. grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper
16 little bocconcini cheese balls or 16 cubes of mozzarella cheese (about 1 lb.)
2 tbsp. olive oil plus ¼ c. for the pesto
1- 28 oz. can plum tomatoes (your favorites)
1 c. fresh basil leaves (pack the cup firmly)
1 tsp. lemon zest
¼ c. chicken or vegetable stock
Making the Dish:
1. Pre heat the oven to 425° F and line a cookie sheet with foil.
2. Place the bread pieces in a large bowl and moisten with milk.
3. After the bread has soaked a few minutes, add the meat mix, egg, 2 cloves of the garlic, the chopped parsley, cheese, and salt and pepper.
4. Smash all the ingredients together until the milky bread has been completely incorporated and the mash is smooth.
5. Divide the meat into 16 equal amounts and form into flat patties. Place a cheese piece into the center of each patty and form the meatballs around the cheese, making sure that it is completely encased.
6. Rub each meatball with olive oil, using the 2 tbsp. measure (see ingredients list).
7. Place the meatballs on the cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.
8. In a saucepan, place the tomatoes over medium high heat. Smash the tomatoes with a masher, tilt a cover over the pan, and simmer to thicken a bit. Stir every now and then to make sure the tomatoes aren’t sticking to the pan.
9. In a food processor, pile in the basil and parsley leaves, lemon zest, chicken stock, one clove of the garlic, salt and pepper, and zip together to break up the leaves a bit.
10. Leaving the processor running, drizzle in the ¼ c. olive oil until a thick pesto paste forms.
11. When the meatballs are cooked, fold the pesto into the tomatoes, plate some of the sauce or pour some into the bottoms of four pasta bowls, top with the meatballs and sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese. Serve with bread or pasta for soaking up the excess sauce
Note: You can also plate some cooked pasta, pour the sauce over and top with the meatballs. I like my pasta on the side with plenty of butter, chopped herbs, and cheese.