Meatballs with a Naples Tomato Sauce
Makes 8 generous servings
Not only are these meatballs baked rather than fried, they're made of more than just meat—they're packed with a spicy vegetable purée and topped with a taste-tempting sauce fairly bursting with more luscious ripe vegetables.
3 tablespoons Chef Paul Prudhomme's Meat Magic®
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground dried ancho chile peppers
Up to 6 tablespoons olive oil, in all
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce, in all
2 1/2 cups chopped onions, about 2 medium, in all
2 cups chopped green bell peppers, about 2 medium, in all
1 cup chopped red bell peppers, about 1 medium
1 cup chopped yellow bell peppers, about 1 medium
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic, about 6 cloves
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves, in all
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves, in all
1/2 teaspoon Chef Paul Prudhomme's Vegetable Magic®
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 cups beef stock or chicken stock
1 pound ground beef
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons minced fresh serrano chile peppers
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
Flour for dusting
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
how to prepare
Combine the seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. To start the sauce, you have a choice—either heat up to 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 6-inch skillet, or preheat the empty skillet over high heat until it’s very hot, about 4 minutes. Add 1 can of the tomato sauce and, as soon as the sauce begins to sputter, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook, carefully uncovering to stir every 5 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates and the sauce is thick and dark red brown, about 40 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat, uncover, and continue to stir every 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture has stopped cooking, that is, when the sauce has thickened and is a dark brick-red color. Set aside.
Heat up to 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) of olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over high heat just until it begins to smoke, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1½ cups of the onions, 1 cup of the green bell peppers, the red and yellow bell peppers, and the seasoning mix. Cover and cook, stirring every 4 to 5 minutes at first, then more frequently as the vegetables brown and begin to stick, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Remove 1 cup of the mixture, purée it, and refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes. Reserve the mixture remaining in the pot for the sauce. Place a 4-quart pot over high heat and add the reserved vegetable mixture, the remaining green bell peppers, the remaining onions, the garlic, 1 tablespoon of the thyme, 1 tablespoon of the oregano, the salt, diced tomatoes, the browned tomato sauce, the remaining can of tomato sauce, and the stock. Bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer briskly, stirring every 5 minutes, for 40 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, make the meatballs.
If you’re able to work without interruptions, the timing should come out just about right—the meatballs will come out of the oven just at the end of the 40 minutes of simmering. If, however, the meatballs are done first, simply remove them from the oven and set them aside until you add them to the sauce, and if the 40 minutes are over before the meatballs are done, just remove the sauce from the heat, cover and set it aside, then re-heat it when the meatballs are ready.
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine the beef, the cold puréed vegetables, the egg, serrano chile peppers, and bread crumbs and mix gently but thoroughly. Wear thin latex or plastic gloves to shape the meatballs if you’re sensitive to chiles or if you have a cut on your hand. Shape heaping tablespoons of the mixture into 1½-inch diameter meatballs—you should have about 40—roll them lightly in flour, then place on a lightly floured cookie sheet. Bake until the meatballs are golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the remaining thyme and oregano, add the brown sugar and meatballs, and simmer briskly for 5 minutes. Stir and scrape the pot bottom thoroughly, then cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and serve immediately over your favorite pasta.
Copyright © 1996 by Paul Prudhomme