The best tuna meatballs

April 12, 2010

 

I love it when you buy a book second-hand and it still bears the imprint of previous ownership: train tickets used as bookmarks, notes in the margins, cooking stains, sentimental notes. In the case of ‘Jamie’s Italy’, it’s a nice piece of cream coloured card with the message ‘Malcolm and Carol – with very much love from Barney and Diana, 25th November 2005’. In pencil at the bottom someone has added ‘This can be exchanged!’

Well, judging by the flawless condition of the pages, I’d say Malcolm and Barbara didn’t get much use out of this gift. Still, I salute them for doing the charitable thing and giving it away instead of taking up the offer of a more suitable present (or maybe they just didn’t want to have to ask for the receipt?)

Either way, Barney and Diana – this one’s for you. I hope you like meatballs.

The best tuna meatballs  Serves 2

The name is Jamie’s, not mine, although I’m prepared to believe him – they were pretty great. I think I may have even improved them slightly by using some leftover rabbit stew topping from the freezer instead of the breadcrumbs; the main difference was the inclusion of fennel seeds, so I can recommend that as a nice addition.

The other major change I made was to increase the amount of tuna and decrease the amount of breadcrumbs, purely because Waitrose sells tuna in handy 250g packets.

For the tomato sauce:
olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
red wine vinegar (optional)
small bunch parsley, chopped

For the meatballs:
250g tuna, diced
olive oil
25g pinenuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
small handful parsley, chopped
50g breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
25g parmesan, grated
1 egg
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

150g spaghetti, tagliatelle etc. to serve

Start by making the sauce: heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic, and fry over a low heat for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the oregano, chopped tomatoes, some salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning – you may need to add a little red wine vinegar at this stage.

For the meatballs, heat another tbsp of oil in a frying pan and fry the tuna with the pinenuts, cinnamon and some seasoning for a couple of minutes, or until the tuna is cooked on all sides. Remove from the heat and tip into a mixing bowl. Allow to cool down for 5 minutes. Add the oregano, parsley, breadcrumbs, fennel seeds (if using), parmesan, egg, lemon zest and juice and mix well with your hands. Squeeze the mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball – I got 10 balls from this amount. It may help the shaping to have wet hands. Place the meatballs on a lightly oiled tray in the fridge for an hour or so.

When you’re ready to eat, put your pasta on to cook. Put the pan you cooked the tuna in back on the heat, adding a little more oil. Cook the meatballs until golden brown on all sides, which should take about 10 minutes. Reheat the tomato sauce if necessary.

Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce, mix, and serve with the meatballs and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italy’.

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