Monday, September 7, 2009

'Meat' balls with Homemade Tomato Sauce

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Sometimes we buy frozen meatless 'meat' balls to supplement our many pasta meals. So I thought I'd make some 'meat' balls at home for a change. But I think I sort of accidentally made falafel. In any event, these 'meat' balls are pretty good, especially with a thick and hearty homemade tomato sauce.

For the 'meat' balls:
  • 1 cup of dry chickpeas
  • 1 medium potato (I used a Yukon gold potato), peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half length-wise with root attached
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, cut into large chunks
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 cups of parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon or to taste of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook dry chickpeas in a large pot of seasoned water along with Bay leaf and 1 onion until chickpeas are well cooked. It may take anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour. With 15 minutes left in the cooking time, add potato chunks. Remove Bay leaf and onion. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Drain. You can also use 1 15-ounce can of cooked chickpeas to save time. But I prefer using dried chickpeas because you can infuse flavor during the cooking process.

Place cooked chickpeas and potatoes in a food processor, along with 1/2 of a medium onion, garlic, rolled oats, parsley, chili powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Pulse until the mixture can easily be formed into small balls. Do not over process, otherwise the 'meat' balls will be dense. If the mixture is too dry, add some of the cooking liquid. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Using wet hands, form small balls of the size of ping pong balls. You should be able to make about 20 'meat' balls. Place 'meat' balls in an oven proof pan sprayed with canola oil and bake in 450 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Turn the 'meat' balls half way into the cooking process.

For the tomato sauce:
  • 2 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 cup of dry red wine (preferably Italian)
  • 1 cup of basic vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of dry Italian herbs (a combination of rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley, and thyme)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, saute carrots, celery and onion in olive oil until the vegetables are softened and slightly brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. De-glaze the pot with red wine. Make sure to scrap up bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes with all the juices, vegetable stock, tomato paste, Bay leaf, Italian herbs, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir occasionally.

Allow the mixture to cool. Using a standard blender or an immersion blender, blend together all the vegetables. The sauce can be canned or frozen into ice cubes for later use. I prefer canning because tomatoes can react to plastic and cause it to taste funny.

I've used this tomato sauce recipe many times to make baked pastas. It's rich, complex and flavorful. With a different choice of carbohydrates, this can easily turn into spaghetti with 'meat' balls or 'meat' ball subs.

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