CLASSIC MEATBALLS INFUSED WITH HONEY PECAN GRANOLA
By Dea Castrejon
Frank Sinatra on pandora…check! Glass of red wine…check! Let’s get din din on!
This is my way of turning a “Case of the Mondays” into a surprise date night with my hunk of a husband. And, on account of granola, 30 ways in 30 days, I will be making classic spaghetti with marinara sauce. The twist??? Granola infused meatballs!
Before I jump into the recipes, I wanted to share with you why I have decided to experiment with a seemingly unusual mixture of meat and granola. Well, for starters, I am a baker at the Granola Factory, and a biased baker at that! I love our granola, so I typically have it on hand in my pantry, unlike bread crumbs. Maybe your family is different, but we do not find ourselves using bread crumbs on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Additionally, as I compare the ingredients of bread crumbs and granola, I believe one could argue that granola is a more nutritionally sound option. It seems like the sodium content in most generic brands of bread crumbs is extremely high, and more than anything, it sort of scares me to think that a carton of bread crumbs possesses enough preservatives to maintain a shelf life of 2 years! Consequently, I am happy to use my 7 ingredient, real food, honey pecan granola as a legitimate alternative to bread crumbs in my meatballs. Am I pushing too hard? Regardless, let me tell you in advance, these granola infused meatballs are delicious, and they have not only been approved by my husband, but I have learned they have been enjoyed by his drooling coworkers around the lunch table, too! So, without any more convincing, I am proud to share with y’all my pasta dinner, championed by these granola infused meatballs!
Alright, I suggest starting with your tomato sauce, especially if you are planning to do this from scratch (otherwise, a jar of your favorite marinara will be great!). For me, starting here allows enough time for my sauce to simmer and for all the wonderful flavors to mingle. Secondly, the aroma of sautéing onions in olive oil and fresh garlic…mmmm, simply amazing!
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
15 oz can of diced tomatoes
3 oz of tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 cup dry red wine
8 ounces tomato sauce
salt and black pepper, to taste
So, as suggested, begin by heating olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Next, add your finely chopped garlic, and let flavors infuse for another minute, or so.
By this time, the amazing smell I hinted at earlier should be consuming your kitchen! You can now added canned crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste to simmer for 10 minutes. Chop up your fresh parsley and oregano and add it to the sauce. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Finally, add your tomato sauce, red wine, and salt and pepper. Let cook for nearly 20 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering for the final time, I begann putting together the star of tonight’s dinner, my meatballs. I have adapted a recipe from The Meatball Shop Cookbook, written by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow. Holzman and Chernow, restaurant owners to the highly esteemed Meatball Shop in New York City, is undoubtedly one of my favorite restaurants. These guys serve a simple, but excellent menu revolving around meatballs in a very unpretentious, communal atmosphere. I have chosen to re-create their most popular, beef meatball for my pasta dinner (See recipe below with granola adaptation/ substitution included).
*makes about 2 dozen 1 ½-inch meatballs
2 pound 80% lean ground beef
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large egg
½ cup Granola Factory All Natural Honey Pecan granola (food processed)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoons dried oregano ( you may also use 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground fennel
Preheat oven to 450ºF. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a 9×13 baking pan and use your hands to coat entire surface. Next, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
Roll mixture into compact, round balls and pack them closely together in the baking dish.
Roast meatballs in the oven for nearly 20 minutes or until center of the meatball reaches 165ºF. Drain any grease from the bottom of the baking dish. Pour 4 cups of your prepared tomato sauce over the meatballs and return pan to the oven for another 15 minutes.
As meatballs are roasting in the tomato sauce, I put together the final pieces to my homemade date night dinner. Boil a pot of salted water for your choice of pasta (I used a fancy filei pasta noodle from an awesome specialty store in the Little Italy neighborhood of Boston).
Prepare a side salad to complement your dish. My husband and I are loving arugula salads right now, so I tossed together arugula, marcona almonds, fresh blueberries, red onion, and thinly sliced peaches dressed with a traditional balsamic vinegar and olive oil mixture. Finally, I sliced up a freshly baked sourdough baguette that I bought from the market earlier in the day.
Table is set. Dinner is plated. Sinatra is still singing. Now, there are two glasses of red wine and my husband is home! Enjoy!