From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Those of you who can't imagine life without a slow cooker will love this recipe. Those of you who love meatballs, no matter how they're cooked, will join the slow cooker crowd up there on cloud nine. Despite the length of the ingredient list, which, by the way, is mostly spices, the meatballs are simple to make, and the addition of sweet vermouth and fennel give them a distinctive flavor that I think you'll really enjoy. While the recipe was designed for the slow cooker, the sauce and meatballs can be simmered in a conventional manner if you prefer to control cooking on your stove top. However you chose to cook them, I want to share a couple of suggestions with those of you who plan to give the meatballs a try. If you want to serve them with pasta, double the sauce ingredients listed in the recipe below. What follows next is, I know anathema, but that's never stopped me before, so, based on personal experience and preference, I'd like you to give some serious thought to cooking the meatballs for less time than the recipe suggests. When I make these meatballs in a convention manner, I simmer them, stove top, for an hour. When I use the slow cooker I cook them on LOW for six hours. I like softer meatballs, and, my experience has been, the longer these cook the firmer they become. That may, however, be fine with you. Strangely enough, I've also found their taste does not improve with age. The flavor of the sweet vermouth seems to dissipate when the meatballs are re-heated and, on day two I think they they are remarkably ordinary. All that being said, if you share my love for meatballs and are looking for new ways to prepare them, do give this recipe a try. You will not be disappointed. Here is how they are made.
Slow-Cooked Pork Meatballs with Porcini Sauce...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Fine Cooking magazine
1-1/2 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup red (sweet) vermouth
1-1/4 pound ground pork
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 (14.5-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon lightly crushed fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1) To make meatballs: Mix breadcrumbs and vermouth in a large bowl and set aside for 20 minutes. Add pork and sausage to crumbs, breaking meat up with your fingers as you go. Add egg, cheese, sage, oregano, salt, and nutmeg and mix until combined. Form into 12 meatballs.
2) To make sauce: Mix crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, dried porcini, oregano, thyme, fennel, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker until tomato paste dissolves.
3) To cook: Nestle meatballs into sauce. Cover and cook until cooked through, 3 to 4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low. (Meatballs can stay on the keep-warm setting for up to 2 hours.) Season to taste with salt and serve. Yield: 6 servings.
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