On a rainy Friday evening, I had it in my head that I wanted to try an Ottolenghi turkey meatball recipe that had caught my eye. When it came down to it, however, I simply couldn’t be bothered to trek to any overpriced supermarket that might be likely to have minced turkey and have to battle with the Friday night shoppers. So, instead, I ended up buying minced beef on my way home.
I didn’t just want to make any old meatball recipe; I wanted something exciting and a little bit different, knowing that I was likely to want to share the recipe with my readers. I basically made this up on the spot, adding ingredients that I thought would taste good with the beef – and they definitely did!
My sauce was fairly spicy, just the way I like it, so ease off on the chilli flakes if you don’t like too much spice. Similarly, my sauce was also pretty rich, so add less wine if you don’t love that rich, winey flavour (but, who doesn’t?!).
You can serve these any way you like – with pasta, rice, soft crusty bread or a leafy green salad. I served mine with red rice, which worked perfectly – and is a little healthier too!
Makes around 12 meatballs
400g lean minced beef
1 red onion, ½ finely minced in a food processor; ½ finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp breadcrumbs (I used gluten-free)
Plenty of fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
80g feta cheese, cut into cubes, plus extra for crumbling
A few sun-dried tomatoes, cut into smaller pieces
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 glass red wine (plus plenty more for drinking!)
Salt and pepper
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Mix the beef, ½ the red onion (the finely minced half), 2 cloves garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, a handful of chopped basil, 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes and salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Get your hands stuck in so that everything is nicely combined.
3. Divide the meat up into smallish balls, and then flatten these onto a chopping board or clean surface.
4. Place a cube of feta and a piece of sun-dried tomato into the centre of each patty and then wrap the meat around the filling and roll into balls.
5. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the meatballs for a couple of minutes, turning frequently to brown them all over. Then remove them from the pan and lay them in an ovenproof dish.
6. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In the same pan where you just cooked the meatballs, fry the remainder of the onion in a little olive oil, then add the garlic.
7. Add the tinned tomatoes, a handful of basil, the remainder of the chilli flakes and bring to a simmer, then add the red wine.
8. Let it simmer for around 10 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken once again. Season to taste.
9. Pour over the meatballs, crumble the remaining feta on top and tear up some basil leaves. Pop it in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling.
10. Serve with rice, pasta or salad, a good glass of wine and good company.