As I may have mentioned in the not-so-distant past we’re getting a new kitchen installed soon. As someone who likes to ready for anything well in advance of actually needing to be ready this means I need to start using up ingredients from the cupboards and freezer asap. One of the recipes that I’ve been trying to perfect is for creamy meatballs – Swedish-style like those you get at Ikea – but it’s not quite working for me in the taste department yet. As a result I have bags of meatballs in the freezer that need to be used up in the next couple of weeks before everything is ripped out and replaced. It seemed a shame to not put them to good use, so here’s the recipe I made with them.
For me one of the best things about meatballs is that they can easily be made in large batches and subsequently stored until needed. If you get the base flavour right they’re versatile enough to go into pretty much any sauce and can come to the rescue in case of a dinner emergency. In this case I needed (yes, NEEDED) to use up an open bag of Orzo pasta so that it didn’t sit on the shelf smiling at me every time I opened the cupboard. The simple solution was to make up a tomato and vegetable sauce and serve everything together as a big bowl of comfort food.
This recipe for Spicy Meatballs with Orzo is not going to win any awards for complexity, or indeed beauty, but it tastes good and is quick and easy to make. I cooked the meatballs from frozen, popping them into the sauce for around 15 minutes to be sure they were fully heated through, but you can do the recipe from start to finish in one go if you’d rather.
Either way this is a bowl of food that puts flavour above looks and it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?
Spicy Meatballs with Orzo
for the Meatballs
- ½ medium Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil for frying
- 25 g Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp Fresh Parsley finely chopped
- 50 ml Semi-Skimmed Milk
- 500 g Lean Minced Beef
- ¼ tsp Ground Allspice
- ½ tsp Garlic Powder
- ½ tsp Sea Salt
- ½ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 large Free Range Egg
for the Sauce
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 medium Onion peeled and chopped
- 1 Red Pepper deseeded and chopped
- 1 Green Pepper deseeded and chopped
- 1 tsp Rosemary chopped
- ½ tsp Garlic Powder
- ½ tsp Smoked Paprika (Pimentón dulce)
- 1 tsp Dried Chilli Flakes
- 100 ml Vermouth or Dry White Wine
- 1 tbsp Tomato Purée
- 400 g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
- 150 ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock
- 3 Spring Onions sliced
for the Orzo
- 300 g Dried Orzo Pasta
- 40 g Parmesan Cheese grated
Make the Meatballs
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook for 10-15 minutes until softened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, put the breadcrumbs and parsley into a large mixing bowl and pour over the milk. Allow to soak for 10 minutes.
Add the cooled onion to the breadcrumb mixture and stir, followed by the beef mince. Mix well, sprinkle over the spices and then mix again, before finally breaking the egg into the bowl and bringing everything together.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line two baking sheets with parchment.
Divide the beef mixture into bite-size meatballs - around 4-5cm in diameter - and lay them out on the baking sheets. You should get between 20 and 25 meatballs from the mix.
Put into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until they're cooked through and golden on the outside. Turn once during cooking to ensure an even colouring.
From here you can either carry on with the recipe or freeze the meatballs once they've cooled down. I'd recommend that you freeze them overnight on a baking sheet (if you have the space) before putting them into a container or freezer bag - they won't stick together this way and can be reheated straight from the freezer.
Make the Sauce
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and peppers, then sauté for 10 minutes until softened.
Add in the garlic powder, rosemary, smoked paprika and chilli flakes and cook for a further minute until fragrant.
Turn up the heat then pour in the vermouth (or wine) and allow to bubble vigorously until reduced by half. Add in the tomato purée, followed by the chopped tomatoes and stock. Stir well then cover loosely. Cook for 10-15 minutes until reduced and thickened, adding the spring onions in the last 5 minutes so that they retain some crunch.
Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook until heated through - this should take 5-10 minutes if you've just prepared them but allow 15 minutes if cooking them from frozen.
Meanwhile, cook the Orzo in boiling water according the pack instructions - taking off 1-2 minutes of the cooking time as you want it to retain a little bite.
When the pasta is almost cooked, drain it and add to the meatballs and sauce. Stir well, ensuring that all of the pasta is coated with the sauce, before dividing between bowls to serve. Top with freshly grated parmesan.