It’s Daring Cooks time again. This month, the challenge was meatballs… or in our case, all-sorts-of-stuff-balls. I made three meals over the course of the month – cannellini balls, aubergine balls and ricotta balls.
Baked cannellini balls
3G actually likes these ones! I keep trying new recipes on him, but he is so fussy about texture, of all things… he asks for the leftovers of these super-healthy balls!
Makes about 30
2 x 400g cans cannellini beans
1 small red onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 egg yolks (or 1 large egg, if you’re not hoarding whites for macarons)
2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 – 2/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
approx. 60g Asiago, cut into 1cm cubes
Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking try with parchment.
Rinse and drain the beans well, then use a fork to mash them together with the onion, garlic, egg yolks and herbs. Season well. Add breadcrumbs bit by bit until you get a mixture that holds together.
Form the mixture into ping-pong-sized balls, stuffing each one with a cube of Asiago, and place on baking tray.
Bake for about 30 minutes, turning carefully halfway, until golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, prepare whatever sauce you want to serve – I made a simple tomato sauce of garlic fried in butter and olive oil to which I added a big jar of passata and a bunch of chopped herbs then simmered for about 20 minutes.
Gently drop the balls into the simmering sauce, turn to coat and cook over low heat for a further 10 minutes.
Serve over pasta or polenta, in a bowl with some crusty bread or in a sub.
Polpette di Melanzane
These beauties make a fantastic meal served with a traditional tomato sauce either on their own or over pasta or polenta, or stuck with toothpicks and served as an appetiser with dipping sauces.
Makes about 30
4 medium eggplants (aubergines)
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
3 – 4 cloves garlic, crushed
bunch flat leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 – 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
Olive oil for frying
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Wash the eggplants and prick them all over with a fork. Place them in a baking dish and dry bake them for about 50 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are quite shrivelled. When done, set aside to cool.
Cut the tops off the eggplants and peel off the skin – it should come away in strips. Roughly chop the flesh and put it in a large bowl.
Using a hand mixer or food processor, mash the eggplant until it’s just a little bit lumpy. You can make it smooth if you like, but I prefer a bit of texture.
Stir in the cheese, eggs, garlic and parsley, then season to taste. Mix everything together thoroughly then start adding dry breadcrumbs bit by bit. How much you need will depend on the wetness of everything else, obviously, but you don’t want the mixture too loose or too stiff – if pressed in your hand it should stay together.
Take golf ball sized handfuls of mixture and roll between your palms into balls and place on a baking dish or large plate.
Pour a generous glug of olive oil into a heavy skillet – enough to cover the bottom – and heat until shimmering. Fry he balls in batches until golden brown then put on paper towel to drain.
Serve warm or at room temperature with a tomato or other sauce.
Homemade ricotta is perfect for these gnudi, but if you buy some, try to get a good crumbly ricotta rather than the super creamy stuff in the tub, which would need to be well drained. Crispy exterior, fluffy interior, delicate flavour. Gnudi are great with a sauce or a salad.
Makes about 24
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten together
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
Olive oil for frying
Mix ricotta, eggs, salt, Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley in a large bowl until well combined. Add flour and stir just until combined and mixture comes together, adding a little bit more flour if it feels too wet.
Shape tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for about an hour, until firm.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
Simmer the gnudi in two or three batches for about 4 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove gnudi from water and drain on paper towel.
Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large skillet and fry the gnudi until golden.
We served ours with a warm salad of grilled veggies and a loaf of fresh bread.
Blog-checking lines: The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice.
Download the printable .pdf file here.