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recipe collector...civil engineer...cookbook devourer...looking to share cookbook & recipe reviews and my real-life kitchen dramas as I re-engineer recipes ...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Three Free Thursday Part III: Spicy Meatballs w/ Fragrant Tomato Sauce

Happy Three Free Thursday, Blog Readers! This is the first entry of my new biweekly "Three Free Thursday" blog entries.  On the first Thursday, I will be selecting three free recipes from sources like @RealSimpleFood, @TestKitchen, @WholeFoods, @SeriousEats, @FineCooking and many more recipe outlets on Twitter. Feel free to send in recipe suggestions for Three Free Thursday on Twitter to @RecipEngineer or by e-mail RecipEngineer@gmail.com . On the following Thursday, I'll report back via blog entry the full results of my adventures in the kitchen and let you know if you should try these recipes at home.  Also I'll try to add helpful suggestions of ways to improve the recipes and/or tips to avoid my pitfalls re-creating these recipes.  Here is Part III of the first ever "Three Free Thursday Results" blog entry.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Spicy Meatballs w/ Fragrant Tomato Sauce
Source: @FineCooking

The final Three Free Thursday recipe was predictably made as a last-minute cooking assignment for this blog on a weeknight after a long day of work.  Fortunately, it turned out to be relatively easy recipe for meatballs made in a single skillet for quick cleanup.

The recipe for Savory Meatballs with Fragrant Tomato Sauce reads like a typical chili recipe with cumin, cayenne pepper and cilantro all in the mix. The cilantro, in particular, is a nice deviation from the usual parsley element in traditional meatballs. These meatballs also require no egg to bind them together.  Instead, the recipe uses a paste of bread crumbs and milk to adhere the small meatballs.  Therefore, it is vital to handle these meatballs carefully. A few crumbled meatballs early on cemented the need to avoid jostling them when adding meatballs into the skillet for me.  The meatballs cooked up perfectly as they absorbed the sauce and maintained their moisture.  Many homemade meatballs are over-cooked due to extended bake time in the oven followed by additional stove top re-heating time, but the leftover meatballs re-heated well and the leftover sauce thickened nicely.

Normally, I am a traditionalist when it comes to meatballs.  In my opinion, they belong "on top of spaghetti ... all covered with cheese".  However, I decided to give the recipe's suggestion to serve the meatballs over rice or couscous a fair shot.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the meatballs and sauce were perfect over a long-grained brown rice.  The rice soaked up the spicy sauce well and invoked the same comfort food-level of a stuffed pepper dish.

In future iterations of this recipe, I would certainly also experiment with ground turkey, ground chicken and/or the typical meatball mix of ground pork, ground veal and ground beef. I was also struck by the idea of making mini meatloaves from this meatball recipe.  Alas, my procrastination left me with inadequate time to also test a meatloaf recipe for this blog.  Expect future blog updates on this recipe's meatloaf possibilities. 

Spicy Meatballs w/ Fragrant Tomato Sauce
The Spicy Meatballs and Fragrant Tomato Sauce was the ideal winter comfort food - perfectly hearty and savory.  Using cumin and cayenne pepper in the meatball recipes gives the dish just enough spice without offending mild taste buds. The Fragrant Tomato Sauce was delicious and truly fragrant, but there wasn't enough sauce to adequate serve with all of the meatballs. Double the sauce recipe and consider adding more chopped onions and/or bell peppers to give the sauce more dimension.

  • If you do not use fresh bread crumbs to make these meatballs, add an extra tablespoon of milk to soften packaged bread crumbs into the desired paste consistency.
  • Double the recipe for the tomato sauce. Remove half of tomato sauce to a saucepan over low heat prior to adding meatballs to the skillet.
  • Serve meatballs over rice, couscous or wide egg noodles.
  • Freeze meatballs in tomato sauce in air-tight containers for up to three months.
Rating: 5 out of 5

Thanks for reading Part III of this week's Three Free Thursday! Send your recipe suggestions for the next Three Free Thursday by Wednesday, February 2nd.

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