Spicy Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Risotto

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I’ve been on a meatball kick lately. They aren’t something that I typically make very often, but lately I can’t seem to get enough. It’s funny, because when I was a little kid I actually hated meatballs. I remember sitting in my high-chair throwing them (and making a huge mess) and demanding that my mom rinse off the sauce and give me ketchup instead (ew). But lately, I’ve been craving the familiar comfort of this dish — from classic spaghetti and meatballs or meatball subs to meatballs with sauerbraten sauce over egg noodles.

When I recently learned that there’s a restaurant in New York City entirely devoted to these tender balls of ground meat simmered in sauce (The Meatball Shop), I immediately browsed their menu and decided what I would order if I went. And then I made it. (PS I went to the Shop this past weekend and it’s every bit as wonderful as you’d expect!)

For as often as I make risotto, I never thought to pair it with red sauce. When I saw that The Meatball Shop offers it as a side dish though, I was immediately sold on the idea. It’s such a nice change from pasta, and it gives the dish an entirely different feel. It makes spaghetti and meatballs seem like kids food; this is for grown ups. Meant to be eaten lazily by candle-light while drinking red wine, served with a side of bitter greens (in this case, with some sautéed broccoli rabe).

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The parmesan risotto that I made was a very simple backdrop for the bold meatballs and sauce, but the cheese also gave it enough flavor to hold its own. It was delicious both mixed with the sauce and eaten plain. I took my time and cooked the risotto very slowly, allowing each grain of rice to absorb what seemed like an impossible amount of broth and resulting in the perfect al dente rice suspended in a rich and creamy sauce. If my risotto looks a little ark, it’s because I used Kitchen Basics chicken stock. I really like the flavor of this stock, but it’s a lot darker than other brands — it almost looks like beef stock when you pour it from the carton. If you use a different brand of stock (or homemade), your risotto will probably be whiter.

I also used a jar of Bertolli Spicy Arribata Sauce that I received a while back as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. The sauce was really good — nice and thick and not too spicy. I added some crush red pepper to kick things up a bit. If you’re using a different sauce, you might want to increase the amount of spice to your liking.

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Spicy Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Risotto
 
Spicy Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Risotto 1 pound lean ground pork 1 egg, beaten 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs 2 cloves garlic, minced (divided) 1yellow onion, minced (divided) 1 Tbs Italian seasoning
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs + 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (divided)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 jar spicy red sauce, such as Bertolli Arribata
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preparation
  1. Combine the pork, egg, breadcrumbs, 1 clove garlic, ½ the onion, Italian seasoning, and 1 tsp red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix everything together, taking care not to overwork the meat. Divide into 16 golf ball sized rounds.
  2. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a large skillet set over high heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the meatballs, working in batches if necessary so you don't crowd the pan, and cook for about 3 minutes on each side or until a nice crust forms (don't worry about the meatballs being cooked through at this point). Add the sauce and the remaining red pepper to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce has heated through and reduced slightly and the meatballs are cooked.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the risotto. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a saucepan.Add the remaining onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the rice to the pan — cook until the rice becomes translucent, with just a pearl of darker white in the center of each grain. Add the white wine to the pan Cook, stirring often, until nearly all of the liquid has evaporated. Add the stock in half cup increments, allowing the liquid to nearly cook off in between each additions and continuing to stir nearly constantly (the more you stir, the creamier the final risotto will be!). Add the parmesan and stir until it melts into the rice.
  4. Serve the rice topped with the meatballs and sauce.

 

*****

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I served this with Grnarly Head Zinfandel, which I’ve been loving lately. I don’t know very much about wine, but I know what I like. And this stuff is good. I’ve already repeated my purchase. I first tries Zinfandel on my birthday, when it was included in a light of wines that I ordered to go with my cheese plate (because what better way to celebrate a birthday than with wine and cheese?) and I like it a lot. — it had a big, juicy flavor that isn’t too sweet. Unfortunately, that’s about the best I can do at a description, but I generally drink pinot noir and I hate merlot so if your taste in wine is similar, you might want to check this out next time you want something new. At around $10 a bottle, the gnarly head is a few dollars cheaper than the other Zinfandels at our local wine store, but it definitely doesn’t taste cheap.

Comments

  1. I heard about this meatball shop in the NY Times and think that I really need to go. Which ones did you order?!?!?

    Your meatballs with risotto look incredibly delicious. I also hated meatballs as a kid…and still dislike my mom’s. But I’ve liked all of the ones that I’ve made! Love the risotto pairing. Definitely way more gourmet than the typical spaghetti!

    • I wasn’t that hungry so I went with sliders, which also allowed me to sample more. ;) I got beef with classic red sauce (pretty good, but not outstanding) and the special, which was a greek ball, with Parmesan cream sauce. That one was amazing! Shawn got Pork with spicy meat sauce and risotto. It was very good, and had a lot more spice than my version did.

      the ice cream sandwiches were also phenomenal. I had walnut meringue with espresso ice cream. Yum. I want another one.

  2. Gnarly Head gets some of their zin grapes just down the street from a couple of my high school friends. I am surprised it paired well with the meatballs, those babies must be rather strong in flavor to hold up to the big fruit-forward Lodi zin!

    That’s the meatball shop Mo profiled in her blog right?

    • I actually didn’t think the gnarly head was very fruity… but like I said, I don’t know much about wine other than knowing what tastes good to me and what doesn’t. I also tend to drink my wine before and after I eat, but only have a few sips while I eat. The pork does give the meatballs a lot more flavor than beef though, and the sauce was very bold.

      Yes, it’s the same meatball place that Mo went to. I sent her the link after I saw it on Andrea’s blog.

      • its so funny, when you sent me link I had been taking to Tara (diva on a diet)about it since she went there and RAVED! and my friend Geneva sent me the link on facebook like 3 months ago! this place has been on everybody’s mind! good news travels fast!

  3. Heather says:

    meatballs are tough – the past few times I’ve ordered something with meatballs at a restaurant I’ve found them to be way too bland. I’ll have to try this:-)

    And I’m a fan of the bertolli arribata sauce, I fgound it a year or two ago, I like the little bit of spice.

  4. I really like the idea of meatballs over risotto. Sounds like an awesome change of pace.
    And I agree with gnarly head being a great wine buy. It’s terrific but inexpensive enough that you don’t have to save it for a special occasion. (Of course, now that we’ve let the cat out of the bag, we might have a hard time finding it ;-)!)

  5. what a seriously fabulous idea! i mean, why WOULDN’T you want to serve meatballs with risotto?! yet another great idea that has a fabulous presentation :)

  6. Patrick says:

    I’ve always loved meatballs. It was always a treat as a kid in the 50′s to go to North Beach in San Francisco for Italian food. If you could pry me away from raviolis, I have meat balls and pasta. I get stuck on beef for the meat and pork will make a nice change….especially with the red pepper flakes mixed in.

  7. I can’t wait to try this dinner! It looks fantastic! Gnarly Head is also one of my favorite go-to wines! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Monique says:

    I could not for the life of me think to order the risotto. But it really does look wonderful. I need to try it. Im so weird when it comes to food pairings. the food police dont exist, they wont arrest me for putting meatballs on my risotto LOL
    looks wonderful by the way

  9. I’ve been seeing that Gnarly Head wine everywhere and was totally wondering whether it was any good! Now I know to try a bottle, thanks! :)

    I’m also a new lover of the meatball. I’m somewhat new to liking meat at all, but now that I do, oh do I love a good meatball. These sound fantastic! I’ve made them with a mixture of pork, turkey, and sirloin for that kind of trifecta of lean meat and good flavor, and baked in the oven. Delicious!

  10. meatballs over risotto, wowo never thought of pairing the two, I bet my hubby would adore me for this, great idea..love your wine glasses

    sweetlife

  11. Wow, what a nice meal…great combination of pork meatballs and risotto…

  12. Spicy meatballs sound so good! Excellent pairing with this zinfandel!

  13. Yum! My boyfriend has been on a meatball kick lately and I am just loving it.

    Try stirring a tablespoon of butter into your risotto right before the cheese, it adds so much richness!

  14. The Food Hunter says:

    Love the idea of meatballs and risotto

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