This is a quick way to simultaneously make tomato sauce and cook pasta – very similar to the use of kritharaki with slow-cooked lamb described in this post.
If you can get burrata, it is much creamier, and thus melts into the sauce much more effectively than mozzarella, but both work well.
You can easily convert this to a vegetarian dish by using vegetarian meatballs and a vegetable stock cube.
Meatballs with fennel and small pasta in a tomato sauce
Serves – 4
- 500g/1 lb 2 oz meatballs
- 1 onion
- 1 bulb of fennel
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle and mortar
- 1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed with some smoked salt
- A pinch of Urfa pepper flakes, or some freshly ground black pepper
- 250g/9 oz small pasta – little malloreddus, kritharaki, or orzo pasta
- 1 beef stock cube
- 1 x 400g/14 oz tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 ball of burrata or mozzarella
- A few sprigs of thyme
- Olive oil for frying and drizzling
- Take your burrata or mozzarella out of the fridge to get it at least to room temperature.
- Peel and chop the onion and start to melt it gently in a large, deep, frying pan. NB – allow at least 15 minutes for this.
- Cut off the fronds of the fennel bulb and keep them to one side. Cut off any tough outer layers or unsightly brown bits of the fennel and slice very thinly. Add to the frying pan.
- Push the slowly cooking onion and fennel to one side and add a bit more oil. Turn the heat up a little, and fry the meatballs until brown on all sides.
- Add the crushed fennel seeds to the frying pan, allow to fry briefly then add to the onions and fennel. Add the crushed garlic to the onions and fennel. Add the Urfa pepper flakes, or some grinds of pepper.
- By now everything in the pan should be cooked through. If it isn’t wait until it is!
- Then add the small pasta and mix in to coat with the oil and fat in the pan.
- Add the tomatoes, and crumble in the stock cube. Fill the tomato tin with water and add that. Cover the pan and simmer for whatever amount of time it specifies on the pasta packet – it’s likely to be for about a quarter of an hour. Be aware of your guests’ preferences. Some like their pasta (even small pasta, which is not like ‘normal’) al dente, stop the cooking a minute or so early for these; others, think it’s better slightly soft.
- Tear the burrata/mozzarella over the whole dish, and add thyme sprigs and fennel fronds. Grind over a bit more pepper and serve.