These meatballs are soft and delicious. The sauce is super basic and really compliments the pork. You can make them as small or as big as you like. The smaller ones are especially popular when I have cocktail parties. I serve them in the sauce with some crusty garlic bread.
For a main course, I make them just a bit smaller than a golf ball and serve them ladled up with sauce atop Rigatoni pasta. They go fast so I suggest doubling the recipe. Leftovers make great meatball subs for lunch. As for the pork sausage meat, mine were flavoured with tomato and mozzarella, but feel free to choose your favourite, even plain. This is also a one-pot dish. Both the meatballs and sauce are made in the same pan. Perfect!
Pork Lemon and Fennel Meatballs in a Red Wine Tomato Sauce
Serves 4-6 Makes about 30, smaller than a golf ball, meatballs
For the meatballs
500 g. Pork mince/ground
400 g. Sausages, any flavour with casings removed
240 g. Diced onion, about 1 medium onion, sautéed
50 g. Panko breadcrumbs, about 1/2 cup
50 g. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, plus more to serve
1 tbsp. Tomato paste concentrate
1 Lemon, juice and zest
4 Garlic cloves, minced
130 ml. Extra virgin olive oil, divided (30 ml. for onions and 100 ml. to brown meatballs and make sauce.
1 Large egg
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg, ground
1/2 tsp. Fennel, if whole crush in a *mortar and pestle.
*If you don't have one, a plastic bag and a rolling pin, or even a wine bottle, will do the trick.
1/2 tsp. Fine sea salt/ table salt, remember the cheese is salty
A handful of fresh basil, finely chopped, plus more to serve
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
For the sauce
800 g. Chopped tomatoes, canned/tinned undrained
150 ml. Red wine
1 Bay leaf
500 ml. Chicken or pork stock, store bought, stock cubes* or homemade
If using stock cubes, use 2 and do not add salt to sauce
2 tbsp. Red, white or balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg, ground
1/2 tbsp. Oregano, dried
225 g. Cherry tomatoes, (about 20) cut in half
In a large high sided frying pan add 30 ml. of the extra virgin olive oil and heat to medium. Add onions and sautée for a few minutes, just until onions soften and start getting colour. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl add remaining ingredients for meatballs except olive oil. Mix well and add reserved onion from pan. Shape meat into little balls and place on plate until ready to cook.
In same frying pan from onions, on a medium heat, add the remaining 100 ml. of olive oil.
Add meatballs in a single layer. Once you place them in pan do not move them until they brown. Once brown on one side, turn once and let brown also. They will not be cooked through at this point, so be gentle in moving them. Use two forks to turn them. Lift and reserve them on a plate until all are browned. I cooked mine in 3 batches. Do not try to crowd the pan.
Once all are brown, you will see brown bits at the bottom of the frying pan. Do not discard! That flavoured oil is now the base of your simple sauce.
Raise heat to high, add wine to the pan. It will sizzle. Scrape up all those delicious bits and stir. Add remaining sauce ingredients to the pan except the halved cherry tomatoes. Those will be added just before serving for a fresh contrast.
Let sauce reduce for 10 minutes, uncovered, on a medium heat.
After 10 minutes, reduce heat to a low simmer, and add meatballs to sauce. Cover pan and let simmer on low for 20-25 minutes.
After 25 minutes, add halved cherry tomatoes and cover pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes more.
Ready! Serve meatballs with sauce and tons of extra Parmigiano Reggiano and freshly chopped basil, on their own or over your pasta of choice.