Thursday, June 14, 2012

Meatballs Bolognese with Lemon Cream

Some people love to make bread as a great stress reliever.  They wax poetic about the feel of the dough, the smell of the yeast, the rhythm of the kneading.  It's not that I don't believe them but I'm not a very successful bread baker.  Just ask Mr. Rosemary.  But cook I can.  And I get what I imagine is that kind of bread-making nirvana (is it like a runner's high?) from making meatballs.

I love digging my hands into the fresh, seasoned mixture of meat and bread crumbs and then shaping (mostly) round orbs and seeing my artwork grow geometrically on my parchment lined-cookie sheet. (I make designs as I go.) There's garlic, freshly chopped onions, Romano cheese and fragrant parsley wafting in the air.  I get into the rhythm of rolling the balls, concentrating only on making them all the same size, and letting myself drift into a lazy daydream about whatever floats into my head. Soothing. Comforting.

I rarely experiment too much with meatballs. And I rarely consult a recipe.  I've made meatballs so many times, I can easily eyeball everything, or use whatever is on hand or need to use.

And "using up" some celery and carrots is what inspired this version I decided I might as well call bolognese.  That may not be the authentic use of the term but since it included the veggies, it seemed to make sense to christen this creation bolognese.




I love the slight crunch of the carrots and celery, which were cooked only when baked in the oven. I never used to bake meatballs.  My mother taught me to saute them in oil on the stovetop.  But I always had trouble keeping them nice and round, and ended up with triangular-shaped balls.  So I began to bake them, turning them once during a roughly half-hour baking in a moderate oven.  And if I put them on a rack, then I can drain any extra fat, too.

I do poach little meatballs in chicken stock when I make wedding soup and a friend recently told me that her husband, the cook in their family, poaches meatballs in beef broth before adding them to a tomato sauce.  And I know lots of people who slow cook meatballs right in the simmering tomato sauce. Meatballs are so versatile, aren't they?

When I make meatballs I usually make a lot more than I need and freeze some; they're very handy for a quick meal.  I freeze them on a cookie sheet then seal them in plastic bags.  Very handy and quick thawing for a fast food meal at home.

A couple things make this not-your-average meatball:  I mixed hot sausage with lean ground beef (half and half) and added fair amounts of carrots, celery and onions.   The lemon cream sauce was a nice surprise with the meatballs; they simmered just a couple minutes while in the sauce, just long enough for the cheese to delicately infuse it.

Bolognese or not, it's a new "recipe" to be repeated.

Meatballs Bolognese with Lemon Cream
For Meatballs:
1/2 pound hot sausage
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup each finely chopped carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
For Lemon Cream:
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If sausage isn't loose, remove from casing.  Mix the meats together in a large bowl and add the bread crumbs, egg, half and half, vegetables, cheese and parsley.  Mix completely, but don't handle too much.  Take golf ball sized hunks of the meat mixture and shape into balls.  (I like to use a small ice cream scooper --  the same sized one to portion chocolate chip cookies.)  Place meatballs on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet and cook for a total of about 25 to 30 minutes, turning once halfway through. Makes about 20 meatballs.
To make sauce, heat half and half, chicken broth and lemon juice to a simmer.  Place cooked meatballs in sauce to coat. Top with lemon zest.




28 comments:

  1. Rosemary, this recipe is a stunner. I love your experiment and would never have thought to put a lemon cream with meatballs but I can see it worked! You've made a delcious summery dish with this unusual twist. Also, some great tips for making meatballs generally. (Meatball 101!) Plus, that rice looks delicious and it's a lovely change from spaghetti with meatballs.

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    1. I'm a big fan of white pizza, white lasagna and white chili, too. And I still love tomatoes. Just like the change, I guess.

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  2. I feel exactly the same way about meatballs--they are wonderful comfort food, and I always freeze some. Love the lemon cream sauce--that's not something I would have thought to pair with them.

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    1. I was surprised myself how the little bit of lemon was a great complement.

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  3. What a wonderful analogy you made between bread and meatball making. I know what you mean about getting into your own place where your mind wanders. I get that way often while cooking dishes I've made a million times.

    My husband loves meatballs and I have to say I've never made one I love to go with a bolognese sauce but if you have one that is wonderful I'd love to try it. These sound delicious and with a lemon cream sauce - very different.

    I found it fascinating how your mother sautes them, you bake them, while other times you and others will simmer them in a broth. Who would have ever known these little secrets had you not shared them.

    I enjoyed reading this post immensely. Have a great weekend!

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    1. I really do enjoy making meatballs and they are so versatile. I've yet to try cooking them in tomato sauce. Always room for experiments!

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  4. My husband eats meatballs EVERYDAY! I am not kidding, EVERYDAY. This looks so good and I am sure he will love it too.
    Have a great weekend!
    Angie

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    1. I think our husbands should meet, Angie!

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  5. These look DELISH, Rosemary! I'm going to try baking my meatballs next time...great hint for keeping them round (or at least less triangular..).

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  6. Fantastic! This sound amazingly good and I love meatballs. I'll have to give these a try. I also love the way you've plated them. They look very, very tempting. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

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  7. Sounds delicious and the rice looks pretty too!

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    1. I was surprised at the nice difference the lemon made.

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  8. what a great spin on a classic - I love your ingredients - I think lemon makes everything better!
    mary x

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    1. Although I wasn't always a lemon lover, I now can't imagine not having half a dozen around. (Wish I had a lemon tree!)

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  9. Rosemary, I do agree with Mary...a great spin on an old classic. The only other time I remember eating meatballs in a cream sauce is the good old fashioned Swedish meatballs. You are certainly creative with your meatballs. Who doesn't, or wouldn't love them?! Looks and sounds amazing!

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    1. We're having meatballs again today (an overstocked freezer!) -- what spin shall I put on them tonight?!?

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  10. These are different than the ordinary meatballs, loving the lemon cream. Lemons are everywhere in Italy!

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    1. I watched a Cooking Channel show where I saw Amalfi coast lemons that looked the size of melons! (Are they dyslexic?)

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  11. I always get over-excited when making meatballs and wind up with gigantic meatballs that could not fit into anyone's mouth! I need to exercise more restraint, methinks... Lemon cream sounds delicious!

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    1. I could eat the lemon cream by the spoonful. I think I did.

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  12. Wow! What a great treatment ... yum, lemon cream!Bet the sauce soaking into that herbed rice was a nice touch too! Did you have a nice evening picnic? Your garden sitting spot looks so lovely and peaceful!

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    1. It is a pretty spot, isn't it! Unfortunately, a bit too buggy (for me) for real eating - just looking pretty.

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  13. I don't typically think of making meatballs as therapeutic, but eating them, definitely! If only you lived closer - you could make them and I could eat them!

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  14. Oh yes, I have to try these Rosemary!

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