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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.