June 7, 2013 by Dewi
A hearty, rich and delicious Italian dinner
Casseroles and stews have got to be the most comforting, homely dishes of all. This recipe is no exception. I’ve been meaning to put something a bit more hearty and substantial up on the blog, a proper meaty dish. I made this the other day and felt that it really fit the bill.
The meatballs, in classic Italian style, are made with a mixture of beef and pork. I made these using half beef mince and half pork sausage meat. The mixture of the two meats give the meatballs a wonderful depth of flavour. The herbs, especially the rosemary, give the sauce such an amazing aroma which fills the house as the casserole cooks, you’d think you’d walked into an old Italian farmhouse. But not like the one with that irritating puppet family on TV. Not that house.
That said, one of the things I love most about Italian cooking is the emphasis on sharing and eating with family and friends. This recipe is great for that. Just put the dish in the middle of the table, chuck a couple of big spoons in there and everyone can help themselves. This is one of my absolute favourite dishes so I hope you like it as much as I do!
For the meatballs:
- 40g breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- large bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped and stalks removed (don’t bin them though, they’ll go into the sauce)
- 250g beef mince
- 250g pork mince (or sausage meat)
- 30g finely grated parmesan (or grana padano – which is cheaper and tastes just as good in my opinion)
For the sauce:
- 2 medium onions, finely diced
- 1 stick celery, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
- large bunch basil, finely chopped
- the stalks from the parsley, finely chopped
- 2 good sized sprigs of rosemary
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 medium glass white wine (about 300ml)
- 300ml good chicken stock
- Place all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl, season and mix well.
- Mould into ping-pong sized meatballs, you should have about 24. Place on a floured surface.
- Fry in olive oil over a medium heat until browned all over. If you have a casserole pan, use that. If not, a frying pan will be fine.
- Remove from the pan and set aside whilst you prepare the sauce.
- Remove most, but not all of the fat from the pan and add the chopped onion, carrot and celery. Cook over a medium-low heat until softened (about 12 minutes)
- Add the crushed garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes.
- Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes
- Now add the herbs, stock and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (be careful with the salt, there will be some in the stock already)
- Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.
- If using a casserole pan, add the meatballs to the sauce. If not, place the meatballs in an ovenproof dish (like the one pictured) and pour over the sauce.
- Place in the oven at 180℃/350℉/Gas mark 4 and cook for around 60 minutes, covered for the first 40 minutes of cooking.
- Grate over some more of the cheese just before serving.
- I like to eat this casserole with parmesan mash and green beans.