Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mini Italian-style Meatballs

Our new bentos have been working out great so far, and I've been doing more with small foods in order to add a little something fun to the bento. Originally, I wanted to try to make a sort of mini-meatloaf but ended up with mini-meatballs instead. I like them a bit sweet and spicy, and these did the trick. I'd add crushed chiles to really give them a kick next time, but with one child who isn't so fond of the spicy, that'll have to wait a few years.

Mini-meatballs in their mini-muffin tins

Mini Italian-style meatballs

1 pound ground beef
Dried Mexican oregano and marjoram to taste - I used 1/2 tsp or so
Salt to taste - I used 1/2-1 teaspoon
Crushed pink peppercorns - 3-5 berries. Regular pepper would work, too.
Finely grated zucchini - maybe 1/3 of a good sized zucchini
Homemade tomato sauce, unseasoned. I used 1/2-1 cup of one of my sweeter ones, made from heirloom tomatoes
Some tomato sauce in reserve, too.

1. Mix all the ingredients together except the reserved tomato sauce.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F or so. Lightly oil 2 sets of mini-muffin tins.
3. Fill each muffin tin to the rim with the meat mixture. I cooked these for 20-30 minutes, until they had pulled away from the edges and there was liquid in the little muffin tins with the meat.
4. At this point, you need to try a meatball. If it tastes good, go with it. Mine, however, had too much oregano, so used the reserved tomato sauce and topped each meatball with about 1/2 Tb of sauce and cooked it for 10-20 more minutes. The red meatballs in the first picture are what I ended up with after topping them with tomato sauce. the picture below is what they'll look like if you don't add any extra tomato sauce.

No extra tomato sauce here!

These were compact, fairly tasty, and easy to add to bentos. I'd definitely do them again!

1. I'd consider adding even more tomato sauce to this recipe, to avoid topping them. One difficulty with no grains is that adding tomato sauce to the meatballs originally makes them so goopy that they don't hold together. These mini-muffin tins may hold them together long enough to offset that that I can add tomato sauce early on without an issue. I'm still experimenting with that.

If it doesn't work like that, topping them afterward works very well. I'd consider, however, cooking down a regular tomato sauce until it's half-way between tomato sauce and tomato paste, to intensify the flavor so we can use less on the meatball.

2. You'll notice I call these Italian-style. Why? Uh...because of the oregano? Seriously, I'm looking at thais, as someone with no Italian ancestry, no trips to Italy ever, and no knowledge about Italian cooking, and wondering where the heck I came up with it. But I still like it, so I'm leaving it there. They're Italian-style because they have...Mexican oregano. Let's just pretend it was Italian oregano and leave it at that, eh? ~_^

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