Sometimes blog posts turn out to be way bigger than I thought they would and not because I planned it that way. This is one of them. Maybe its because this recipe has two separate elements – namely the baked meatballs and the garlic bread, or maybe its because I got carried away shooting the preparation steps in my kitchen and then shot the finished dishes in my studio. Maybe its because a huge mystery transpired around the garlic bread that went missing later on in the day (#garlicbreadmystery on Twitter) or maybe because for the first time I was trying to create a recipe that would fit into 70 minutes. Whatever the reason, I was so pleased with how everything turned out taste-wise and I hope you love this as much as I do.
The iconic Roodeberg range turns 70 this month, and in fact, as I post this I will be off to Paarl to celebrate the occasion. To commemorate the event I have created this baked meatball dish that is perfect winter comfort fodder than can be made in 70minutes and pairs with their easy-drinking red blend. The toasted garlic baguette slices are the perfect way to get a little extra and mop up all the delicious sauce.
I adore meatballs and since this dish was being baked in the oven I felt it was absolutely necessary to add a creamy cheese topping. I mean baked dishes require that right? I’ve shredded a ball of fior di latte mozzarella into small shards and blended that with equal parts Mascarpone cheese. Dolloped on top of the saucy meatballs it was the perfect way to finish this off.
I’ve added fennel to the meatballs to accentuate the aromatics, give it a heightened Italian flavour profile and simply because I am obsessed with it. I have also packed a lot of flavour into the sauce which I often don’t do, but kind of love it here. Onion, garlic, wine, bay and a pinch of chilli flakes added to the crushed tomatoes give it so much flavour and a generous knob of butter takes it to the next level. If you haven’t yet discovered the joys of adding butter to tomato sauce, you are missing out.
While the sauce is simmering away, you get busy with the meatballs so that by the time you are finished with that you pile it all into the oven. While that is baking to bubbly perfection, you make the garlic bread, keeping everything within the 70 minute time frame. I baked the meatballs in 2 dishes but a single one will be easier.
Just a quick note on the garlic bread, I really loved this method of making it vs the traditional way of cutting the bread into slices. Ok, I also do love it that way too but this is a quicker method and the bread gets slightly less saturated and remains extra crunchy. You can pick which way you prefer it.
Recipe – serves 4
- 1 large white onion finely chopped
- Splash of olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- ¼ cup red wine (I used the Roodeberg red)
- 2 x 400gms tins of chopped peeled tomatoes
- 1 – 2 fresh bay leaves (optional)
- 30gms butter
- Salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- Pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
- 500gms free-range beef mince
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko
- 10gms parsley finely chopped (about 2 Tbsp)
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
- A generous amount of salt (at least 1 ½ tsp) and pepper
- 1 free-range egg
- 125gms fior di latte or buffalo mozzarella – drained and shredded
- ½ cup or 125gsm Mascarpone cheese
- Grated Parmesan to serve (optional)
- 1 French baguette
- 90 – 100gms butter depending on how big the baguette
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 1 /2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 30 gms freshly grated parmesan
Preheat the oven to 180C. Chop the onion.
In a non-stick frying pan, sweat the onion in some olive oil for about 4 – 5 minutes until softened but not browned.
Divide this cooked onion in two and put half in a medium-sized bowl (this will be for the meatballs) and the other half in a medium-sized pot for the sauce. Add the crushed garlic to the onions in the pot for the sauce and fry for a minute. Then add the red wine and allow this to cook off. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, sugar, butter, a pinch of chilli flakes (if using), salt and pepper and allow this to bubble for about 20 minutes until thickened.
While the sauce is cooking, make the meatballs. Into the bowl with half a cooked onion, add the mince, breadcrumbs, finely chopped parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, salt & pepper and egg. Mix this until well combined. Make meatballs using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon measure. You want the meatballs to be quite small in size and you should get around 20 – 22 meatballs out of the mix.
Once made heat another splash of olive oil in the non-stick pan you fried the onions in and fry the meatballs until golden on all sides. You can do this by swirling the pan around. They do not need to be cooked right through. Decant these into an appropriately sized oven dish.
Shred the mozzarella and mix with the Mascarpone to form a thick paste.
The sauce should have been bubbling for 20 minutes, then decant it over the meatballs. Dollop pieces of the cheese mixture around the top of the dish and cover it with foil (or a lid if the baking dish has a lid). Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and put it back into the oven for a further 10 – 13 minutes. At around the 9-minute mark, turn the oven to grill (broil) and watch the cheese as it starts to bubble and go brown. Remove it from the oven and set aside for a few minutes.
While the meatballs are in the oven baking, make the garlic bread. Cut the baguette into 3 equal parts and then slice these thirds into half horizontally. You will now have 6 pieces of bread. Put the butter, garlic and parsley into a small bowl and microwave for 2 minutes or heat on the stove for a similar time (cook for at least a minute after the butter starts to bubble. Place the sliced bread cut side up on a baking sheet lined with paper and brush the garlic butter over the entire surface. Brush the underside lightly with butter if you have any leftover. Grate the Parmesan on the fine side of a grater and sprinkle this over the bread. Place this in the oven about a third of the way down and watch closely as it cooks. It will take about 5 – 10 minutes to turn golden brown. Watch this very closely.
Serve this with the baked meatballs that should still be bubbling and hot.
*This post is proudly sponsored by Roodeberg
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