Pork and fennel is a classic combination for good reason. This simple meatball recipe is an Italian delight with a crusty baguette, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
In his meatball cookbook, Jez Felwick brings a delicious combination of flavors from the street to your home, all made with free-range meat and quality ingredients, bursting with flavor and served with fresh-tasting sauces and sides. The Meatball Cookbook: Great Balls of Fire (Mitchell Beazley, 2013) is Felwick’s collection culminated from his experience as “The Bowler,” a well-known gourmet food cart vendor in London. He gives more than 70 “ballistic” ideas, including original sauces, sides and salads. The following excerpt is a classic meatball recipe — one made from high-quality pork dressed up with funnel and parsley.
You can buy this book from the GRIT store: The Meatball Cookbook: Great Balls of Fire.
Preparation time 20 minutes, plus standing. Cooking time 20 minutes.
Pork and fennel is a classic Italian combination, and in meatballing circles they’re in regular contact. This is a recipe where I've decided to soak bread in milk, instead of using a dry crumb. It helps give lightness to quite a dense mix.
2 slices (about 3 1/2 oz) stale white bread, crusts removed
scant 1/2 cup milk
3 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 free-range egg
3 1/2 oz pancetta, diced
1lb boneless pork shoulder, ground
1 onion, minced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 425ºF and line a large baking pan with nonstick parchment paper.
Roughly tear up the bread and place it in a bowl. Pour in the milk and set the bowl aside for 10–15 minutes.
Heat a heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until it begins to smoke, then add the fennel seeds. Toast them for around 30 seconds, or until they begin to brown and start to give off a fragrant aroma. Grind them finely in a mortar and pestle.
Beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Mash the bread and milk mixture to a paste with a fork, then combine with the egg. Add all the other ingredients and mix with your hands until well combined. This is a pretty dense mixture, so give it a good squeeze through your fingers to make sure everything gets distributed evenly.
Heat a small skillet over high heat. Break off a small amount of the mixture, flatten between your fingers, and fry until cooked. Taste to check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Form the mixture into 16–18 balls, each 2 inches in diameter, packing each one firmly, and place them on the prepared baking pan.
Bake for 15–18 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through—the balls should begin to brown on the top. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn underneath.
Great served in a small crusty baguette, with tomato sauce and some mozzarella cheese melted on top.
A variation on this recipe is to go “Pork ’n’ Puy”—brown the balls in a skillet, rather than in the oven, then drop them into simmering Puy lentils for 10 minutes to finish cooking. You may need to add a little more vegetable or chicken stock or water. Garnish with shavings of Parmesan instead of mozzarella, and serve with crusty bread and butter.
Reprinted with permission from The Meatball Cookbook: Great Balls of Fire by Jez Felwick and published by Mitchell Beazley, 2013. Buy this book from our store: The Meatball Cookbook: Great Balls of Fire.
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