top of page

Lamb Meatballs with Roasted Broccoli Salad

In case you can't tell from my last name, my husband is Italian. Or, as he would clarify, half Italian and half Sicilian. The Italian-American culture was reinforced on pretty much a daily level with him. The Sunday gravy process began on Friday nights, and eating roasted garlic was considered a candy.

I, too, am half Italian, but my father's neighborhood as a child was very integrated. My grandparents had left the Italian enclave of South Philly and brought their children up in the Germantown section of the city. The Zeccas were Italian through and through, but my dad thought every American household began making dinner with olive oil and garlic. "What else would people cook with?!" Maybe he wasn't eating pasta five nights a week, but he was certainly stubborn. So, very Italian.

That all being said, we both love the cuisine of our heritage, and I find myself making pasta more often than my jeans would encourage. Luckily my mother has always been a great cook, and showing me that nothing needs to be made the same way, everytime, has been something I fully embrace.

Last Monday, I had two small lamb loins to use up among other items. They had been marinating in a bath of olive oil, thyme and garlic over the weekend in the fridge, and I hadn't been sure what was going to happen to them. After the Sicilian put in a request for spaghetti and meatballs, I decided to grind the lamb up and make an easy red sauce. Now. I don't have a meat grinder, as NYC apartments tend to be on the small side if you aren't a multi-millionaire. FYI, I'm not. However, after deciding that my handheld immersion blender would do the trick, I will now be cramming a new one of those along with a grinder into my kitchen, since I managed to learn that a hand blender will grind meat, but also burn a small amount of its' wiring in the process.

When making any type of meatball, I believe the less ingredients the better, because the point is to taste the flavor of the meat along with absorbing as much sauce as possible. For this batch, I seasoned with salt and pepper, added in some panko and an egg to bind, then tossed them in the saucepan with olive oil. Once they were browned on the outside, I removed them from the pan even though they weren't fully cooked. Into the pan went a diced shallot, then a can of tomato puree and some tomato paste. I have recently been using a twice or thrice-concentrated paste, and what a difference it makes! During the winter, it can be difficult to really get a punch from red sauce without fresh tomatoes, but this stuff is great. You can use less of it because it's highly flavorful. I seasoned the pot, added about 1/4 cup of red wine, chopped fresh sage and parsley, and just let it do its' thing while I tackled the rest of the meal.

I had some broccoli and kale waiting to be loved, so I gathered those guys into a baking dish, then tossed in a couple of whole garlic cloves, salt, pepper and drizzled with olive oil. Adding a little bit of water to the bottom of the dish would steam the broccoli while it roasted at 350.

Meanwhile, I cranked out the pasta. My mom had learned her recipe from my paternal grandmom, which is the most traditional - one egg to one cup of flour, add water as kneaded - get it?! As I've played around with making pasta, I've really looked into different processes and learned what the ingredients will do to each other. My recipe takes a slight twist. I eyeball about one cup of flour* and add just egg yolks, usually about 4-5. A sprinkle of salt, and then a few drops of olive oil. Using just the yolks will give you a rich, flavorful noodle, and the oil will not only add a silkiness to the dough, but it will also make it much easier to form the ball without sticky dough all over your fingers and countertop. Trust me on this. Side note: I never discard the egg whites. I save them in the fridge to brine chicken for another meal. This is a trick I read about at Blue Ribbon here in New York, which makes the best fried chicken I've ever eaten in my entire life.

Back to the meal at hand. The meatballs had found their way back into the pan to finish cooking off, and I cut the dough into smaller parts, kneaded it out and ran it though my hand crank machine for fettuccine. The broccoli was just about finished in the oven, so I used the couple of minutes the pasta would take to cook (fresh pasta cooks very quickly, literally just a few minutes) to add a spinkle of parmigiano and Marcona almonds** to the salad, and topped it off with another drizzle of olive oil.

I plated the pasta and we sat down to eat. The bright flavor of the lamb was amazing and seeped through the entire dish. The vegetable concoction wasn't bad either. All in all, it was a lovely little wintery meal, and highlighted the theory that changing it up can turn the ordinary Italian meal into something fresh and unexpected.

*Flour can make a difference. I lean towards brands like King Arthur or Bob's Red Mill. Using a better quality flour will lighten the dough and stretch it a bit further. Rather than devouring a vat of carby noodles, I prefer a softer flour which absorbs more of the sauce and flavor of the meal.

**Marcona almonds introduced themselves to me just recently in the last few years. They are a Spanish variant that grow shorter and rounder, with a pleasant texture. If you can find a container of them, check them out. You'll usually find them packaged in oil and salted, in a cheese shop or something like that.

featured posts



© 2015 by Sunshine and Raviolis                                                                                                                                                                                                           For NMZ 


Proudly created with love, eggs and flour

bottom of page