Rowdy, with a chance of meatballs

Dish for rings and jewelry[Recipe 1] BEEF, PORK and RICOTTA MEATBALLS transforms into
[Recipe 2] OVEN-BAKED TOMATO, SPINACH and MEATBALL RISOTTO

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Nothing elicits a louder YUM from my boys at dinnertime than meatballs. These are lovely and light with the addition of ricotta. You’ll end up with four lots of beef, pork and ricotta meatballs with this recipe, so you can bung the rest in the freezer and defrost when required.
The trick with meatballs is to work the mixture with your hands first. The heat from your hands will soften the fat and help the mixture come together, preventing your meatballs from falling apart during frying. I take off my rings for this gross task, and place them in my little crying onion dish.
Recipe two is a fab Oven-baked tomato, spinach and meatball risotto, using reserved beef, pork and ricotta meatballs. Look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for hints on how many meatballs to set aside for this dish. This baked risotto is super-quick to make as there is virtually no stirring required. I know risotto purists will scoff, but I love a no-stir risotto. I’d much rather have a nice glass of red while my dinner cooks itself.

Meatballs with tomato pasta sauce

[Recipe 1] Beef, pork and ricotta meatballs

Ingredients (makes 100 meatballs; serves 4 for 4 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for frying meatballs
3 brown onions, very finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) beef
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) pork
125g (4.5 oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
250g (½ lb) fresh ricotta
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1½ cups (125g) fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
1½ teaspoons salt
For tonight’s dinner:
1⅓ cups (600g) tomato pasta sauce (store-bought or home-made)
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti
Extra grated Parmesan cheese, to serve 

Heat olive oil in a non-stick frypan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Place into a large bowl and allow to cool. Add minced meat, Parmesan, ricotta, parsley, eggs, breadcrumbs and salt. Using your hands, mix and squash the mixture together until well combined.
Using your hands, roll level tablespoons of the mixture into balls. Divide meatballs into 4 lots (approx. 650g/1.4 lb or approx. 25 meatballs for each lot), placing baking paper between each layer. Freeze or refrigerate until required.
Reserve one quantity (approx. 600g/1.3 lb) of beef, pork and ricotta meatballs for the tomato and basil risotto with meatballs.
Heat extra olive oil in a large non-stick frypan, over medium heat.
Fry tonight’s meatballs in two batches until browned and just cooked, approximately 8 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Wipe pan clean and pour in tomato pasta sauce. Add meatballs. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Serve meatballs and tomato sauce warm, over spaghetti, scattered with Parmesan cheese.

  • Humanely-farmed veal can be used in place of pork.
  • Uncooked meatballs can be frozen for up to 3 months. Place baking paper between the layers. Defrost overnight in the fridge and drain on kitchen paper.
  • To make your own fresh breadcrumbs, remove the crusts from day-old sourdough bread and coarsely chop. Whiz in a food processor. Fresh breadcrumbs can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Instead of 4 lots of meatballs, use the mixture for 3 lots of meatballs and 1 lot of burgers. Simply shape 1 portion of the mixture into 4 or 6 patties and freeze until required. These burgers are delicious cooked on the BBQ. Serve in hamburger buns with lettuce, tasty cheese and tomato relish or caramelised red onion jam.
  • 
If you don’t have a deep-sided non-stick pan; cook the meatballs in a shallow-sided non-stick pan first; and transfer them to a deeper pan for cooking in the sauce.

Baked risotto with meatballs

[Recipe 2] Oven-baked tomato, spinach and meatball risotto

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 tablespoons olive oil
♦ 1 quantity (approx. 600g/1.3 lb) beef, pork and ricotta meatballs
1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped (approx. 5mm/1/4-inch cubes)
1½ cups (315g) arborio rice
400g (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock (store-bought or home-made)
3 cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick frypan, over medium heat.
Fry meatballs in two batches until browned and just cooked, approximately 8 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an oven-proof (preferably cast iron) pot, on the stove-top. Add onion and carrot and cook for 5 minutes, until onion is softened.
Add rice and cook for a further 2–3 minutes, stirring, until grains are well-coated. Add tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil. Remove from stove-top. Cover pot, and transfer to the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pot from oven and gently stir in cooked meatballs, spinach salt and pepper. Return pot to oven and cook for a further 10–15 minutes or until liquid is mostly absorbed, spinach is wilted and rice is tender.
Serve, scattered with Parmesan and parsley.

Rice and easy

[Recipe 1] NO-STIR CHICKEN and ROAST PUMPKIN RISOTTO transforms into
[Recipe 2] CRISPY RISOTTO BALLS
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We’re back from a week on the Mornington Peninsula. All that beach-going and relaxation was rather nice; although I did manage to scorch a large hot pink triangle on my chest region (after forgetting the sun screen on that one darn spot). The 7 year old said it made me look like a super hero. The 4 year old required a trip to hospital after being stung by a bee on his foot, which blew up like a balloon. He consequently spent most of his beach days being dragged around in a blow-up boat. So… we’re home and exhausted.
Time for an easy recipe methinks. Hello No-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto. A mum from my son’s school (hi Gab!) got me hip to the no-stir method. Risotto purists should avert their gaze. Instead of ladling incremental amounts of hot stock, and stirring and checking every 5 minutes; you can be grating the Parmesan and chopping the parsley while it practically cooks itself. Excellent!
Reserve some of the risotto as planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds within the recipe) and whip up a batch of scrumptious Crispy risotto balls the next day.
PS. Had to share my beautiful vintage happy flower fabric, a pressie from my friend Meagan. One day it will become an apron or skirt, but for now it makes a spiffy tablecloth!

Vintage flower fabricNo-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 1] No-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
350g (12 oz) peeled, de-seeded butternut pumpkin, chopped into 1cm (½“) cubes (start with 500g/1 lb unpeeled pumpkin)
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
4 skinless chicken thigh fillets (about 500g/1 lb), chopped into 1cm (½-inch) cubes
2 small brown onions, finely diced
3 cups (650g) arborio or carnaroli rice
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 1 large cob/ear)
8 cups (2 litres) chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
1 cup frozen peas (or fresh podded peas – see notes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (100g) grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Toss the pumpkin cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil and roast for 20–25 minutes until cooked through. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the extra olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken and onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until onion is soft and chicken is cooked through.
Add the rice and garlic and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 2–3 minutes.
Add the corn kernels and 4 cups of stock. Stir once, cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until stock is absorbed. Sneak a peek after 8 minutes, to make sure it isn’t sticking.
Add peas and remaining stock. Return to the boil and simmer, covered, for a further 10 minutes. Gently stir through the roast pumpkin, Parmesan and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper.
Reserve 5 cups (about 1.2 kilos) chicken and roast pumpkin risotto for the crispy risotto balls.
Serve risotto, scattered with extra parsley.

  • Planned-overs (reserved risotto) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Fresh peas can be used, instead of frozen. Add these with the corn kernels.

  • Roast some extra pumpkin with a couple of quartered red onions and you’ll have an instant salad for dinner (or lunch) tomorrow. Toss with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing; and scatter with cracked black pepper and basil leaves.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.

Crispy risotto balls. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Crispy risotto balls

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 25–30 balls):
♦ 5 cups (about 1.2 kilos) reserved chicken and roast pumpkin risotto
¾ cup dry breadcrumbs, plus 2 cups extra for coating
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup olive oil for shallow frying
Sea salt
Chilli mayo or sriracha mayo, to serve

Place reserved chicken and roast pumpkin risotto into a large bowl. Break up risotto roughly with a knife, add ¾ cup breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly.
Shape mixture into about 25–30 golfball-sized balls. Dip into beaten egg; then lightly roll in the extra breadcrumbs. Refrigerate up to 4 hours, until required.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan until shimmering. Fry risotto balls in 3–4 batches until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Roll the balls around in the oil with a slotted spoon or tongs, to ensure they brown evenly. Drain on paper towel.
Sprinkle with salt, and serve hot with chilli mayo or sriracha mayo, and a simple green salad. Yum.

  • You’ll need sriracha chili sauce for sriracha mayo, which is available at Asian food stores. The authentic version, made by Huy Fong Foods in California, is available in Australia at USA Foods.