Baked melting mozzarella stuffed nduja meatballs

Like meatballs? Like melting cheese? Yes, of course you do! You’d be mad not to! Well this is your ticket to an easy, crowd pleasing dinner. I try to use the best quality mince I can as you really do taste the difference compared to cheaper ones on offer. This recipe calls for a mixture of beef and veal mince but you can use one variety if you prefer. Veal mince keeps the meatballs moist and it is worth a try if you have not tried it before. It has a more subtle flavour than beef and I also love using it in spaghetti bolognese.

Now this is not the first time I have used nduja in recipes on this blog and it certainly won’t be the last. This soft, spicy Calabrian beauty’s popularity has risen over the last few years and is now readily available in delis and supermarkets. The lovely people at Duchy Charcuterie very kindly sent me some of their award winning nduja to try and I was smitten. Compared to some other ndujas I have cooked with in the past, this one is more mellow but still packed with flavour. You can find out more about the nduja from Duchy Charcuterie from marc@duchycharcuterie.co.uk.

Red pepper and nduja are a match made in heaven so I have laced the tomato sauce with roasted pepper. The ready roasted jarred peppers are always in my cupboard on hand and are perfect for a quick fix. They soften into the sauce beautifully but of course can be substituted with fresh red peppers if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4
200g beef mince
200g veal mince
Salt and pepper to season
2 mozzarella balls- cut into small chunks
2 tbsp nduja
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
3 jarred roasted red peppers- sliced
Handful of freshly torn basil to finish- optional

1. Kick off by choosing the correct pan that can be used to fry off the meatballs and that is suitable for popping in the oven- purely a washing up saving device! Get started by making the meatballs and this can be done in advance. Take the two types of mince and add the nduja into it; season well. Some nduja is more solid than others so I tend to pinch small pieces off and then distribute through the mince mixture. Squish together well to bring the mixture together- the meat will bind after a bit of working and that’s when it is ready to shape so it holds. I find that using egg to bind mince can result in a stodgy meatball but trust me that these will still keep their shape! You are after meatballs which are slightly larger than a golf ball. Take the mince, flatten it in the palm of your hand and then pop a cube of mozzarella in the middle before wrapping the mince around it. Repeat until all the mince has been used. Make sure the cheese is well wrapped as you don’t want it oozing out. Pop the balls on a tray and chill until you’re ready to cook.

2. Take the pan of choice and add a glug of olive oil. Heat to medium and take the meatballs in batches and fry until golden on the outside. Remove from the pan and set aside whilst you make the tomato and red pepper sauce. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan in preparation.

3. If there is a lot of fat from the mince then drain some off to leave about a tablespoon of it. Don’t throw it all away as it is full of flavour! Over a medium heat, add the onion and cook until softening. As garlic cooks more quickly, add this in a minute or two before the onion is done. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and sliced roasted red pepper and bring to a simmer. If using fresh peppers you may like to add the pepper in first and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes.

4. Add the golden meatballs back to the pan and arrange so they are not all crammed in and they have space between. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the meatballs are cooked and the sauce is nicely reduced. Finish with some roughly torn basil if you like and serve. These meatballs are as delicious with pasta as they are with a hunk of bread so it’s up to you!

Baked melting middle nduja meatballs- pimp up your midweek dinner!

 

 

 

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Veal, porcini and cavolo nero ragu

This veal, porcini and cavolo nero cannelloni was inspired by a recent trip to a local Italian restaurant where I had order envy! One of my fellow diners ordered a sumptuous veal cannelloni so I thought, ‘why not make a classic even more special?’. Veal mince is more widely available now and gives a lighter flavour but is still delicious. You will see that I have given you the recipes for the ragu and béchamel sauce but the photo is for the veal ragu served with spaghetti- ‘why?’ I hear you cry! Simple as this: time was short and hunger was high! We all get impatient from time to time but really do try it as a cannelloni!

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the filling
Olive oil
400g veal mince
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 carrot- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed or finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml white wine
25g dried porcini mushrooms- rehydrated
Fresh thyme
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
300ml beef stock
100g cavolo nero
Dried or fresh lasagne sheets
Freshly grated parmesan

For the béchamel sauce
500ml milk
1 onion- halved
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
50g butter
50g plain flour

1. I make the veal sauce in advance so it has plenty of time for the flavours to develop. Take a large pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium/ high heat. When the oil is hot, brown the veal mince. You may need to do this in two batches so the meat browns nicely. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. If the veal has released a fair bit of natural fat then drain a little away. Return the pan to a medium heat and cook the onion, garlic and carrot for until softening but not so the onions are catching too much colour. Add the tomato puree and stir so it is well combined before cooking for a minute or two before adding the porcini mushrooms and thyme.

3. I have chosen to use a dry white wine in this recipe to keep it lighter but feel free to use red if you would like. Add the wine to the pan and heat until reduced by half; this will deglaze the pan as well as adding flavour. Pour in the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. After the hour is up I then add the cavolo nero before giving it another half an hour or so. Season well.

4. Whilst the sauce is simmering away, you need to make the béchamel sauce which is going to top the cannelloni. For the sauce, secure the bay leaves to the onion halves using the cloves- this way you don’t have to go fishing around the saucepan to find the cloves later on! Add the milk to a small pan and bring to a boil before removing from the heat and allowing the flavours from the bay and clove to infuse for around 20 minutes.

5.Take another pan and melt the butter and flour together until a paste, or roux, is formed. Remove the onion, clove and bay from the pan containing the milk and slowly add the milk to the pan with the roux. Keep stirring so lumps don’t form! Simmer and stir until it thickens before removing it from the heat ready to pour over the cannelloni.

6. When the veal sauce is thick and reduced, you can get going on forming the cannelloni. Take the lasagne sheets and cook for a couple of minutes, drain and allow to cool until you can handle them. Each pasta will vary in time slightly so do refer to the packet instructions. Place a line of the veal sauce to one end of the lasagne sheet (not right on the end, leave a small gap) and roll. Place the pasta tube, seal side down, into a baking dish and repeat the process until the veal sauce has been used. Tuck each tube in snuggly. Pour over the béchamel sauce and grate over a little fresh parmesan. Bake in a 200c/ 180fan preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Veal, porcini and cavolo nero ragu which is fit for a king- a twist on an Italian classic!

 

 

Ultimate slow cooked bolognese

A great bolognese should be in everyone’s culinary repertoire so let me share mine with you. The key to a beautiful bolognese sauce, or ragu, is slow cooking so be patient! Also remember that Italians traditionally serve this with tagliatelle so use a good quality pasta so the sauce clings to every strand. If you’re not a huge fan of mince then substitute it with diced beef but remember that this would cook better in the oven on a low heat to ensure the meat falls apart.

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Ingredients-serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
400g beef or veal mince or half and half
1 onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
200g chestnut mushrooms- sliced
Handful of rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 celery sticks- finely sliced
1 carrot- finely chopped
Small pack of pancetta cubes
120ml red wine
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
Beef stock cube
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
400g dried spaghetti or tagliatelle

1. To start, take a large pan and heat 1tbsp of the oil over a high heat and brown off the mince which will take a few minutes. I often use veal mince as it has a lower fat content and gives a lighter bolognese.

2. In a frying pan sautee the chestnut and porcini mushrooms until golden. Mushrooms need to be cooked over a high heat to draw out the water

. 3. Take a heavy based pan (time to crack out my Le Creuset again!) and heat the remaining oil over a medium heat.Cook the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta until it all begins to soften and then add the garlic into the pan for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pancetta cubes are easy to find however if you want to ramp up the flavour even more then look for a small block of pancetta which you then cut yourself. This tends to have more flavour and a smokey note which you don’t get with precut cubes so head to the local deli and treat yourself!

4. Next the tomato puree goes in to cook off for another couple of minutes, followed by the red wine and aim to reduce this by half. Pop the bay leaf in and sprinkle the oregano.

5. Stir the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar in and crumble in the stock cube which will add an additional depth of flavour. Season to taste, bring the bolognese up to a simmer, cover and cook on the hob for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. I also keep some of the porcini mushroom liquor back and add a little to give an extra meatiness.

6. When the bolognese is nearly ready cook the pasta and drain well. I add the pasta into the sauce to ensure each stand if pasta is well coated. Divide the bolognese between the bowls and serve with parmesan.

A classic dish to please any family! I mean who wouldn’t want this simmering away on their hob?…