I’m sad that I grew up in Italy and never got to visit Sicily. Well, not that sad…I grew up in Italy! And got to experience Rome and its delicious cuisine. But I can tell from the many traditional Sicilian dishes that I’ve tasted and cooked, that I will fall in love with Sicily and its food culture (For more about Sicilian cuisine, scroll down for the Foodstory).
I use the classic Sicilian combination of raisins and pine nuts in a lot dishes. It works in just about anything! Add the two to a roasted cauliflower salad, braised swiss chard, spaghetti with sardines or some meatballs. In this case, I use lamb for the meatballs, which is a match made in heaven with the sweetness of the golden raisins and the earthiness of the pine nuts.
Add a rich Italian tomato sauce to braise the meatballs in, and you’re spending the evening in a small Sicilian trattoria watching the sun set over the mediterranean.
And why not throw in some anchovies into the sauce? A widely used Sicilian ingredient that pairs perfectly with the richness of lamb.
You can serve these Sicilian meatballs over some pasta or with some freshly baked crusty bread. Since bikini season is right around the corner, I opted to go light on the carbs and paired the dish with a rosemary flavored white bean puree. And frankly, I think it’s tastier than plain old starchy dishes. Or am I just saying that to convince myself? Pasta is my favorite food in the whole world that I cannot eat too much of :/
These Sicilian meatballs will probably not make it through the evening, but should you have left overs, they make a delicious sandwich for lunch the next day! Just spread some of the sauce on a baguette (or some focaccia), layer some meatballs and melt some provolone on top.
You can also add some arugula, for the crunch and you know… just to keep it healthy 😉
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 small white onion, chopped (or half a large yellow onion)
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- pinch of hot pepper flakes (or up to 1/4 tsp if you like heat)
- 2 mashed anchovies (optional and highly recommended!)
- 1/2 tbs dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes (or regular)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb ground lamb meat
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 3 eggs
- 2 large garlic cloves finely minced / grated
- 2 finely chopped scallions
- 1 tbs chopped mint
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 cans of white beans (cannelloni work great)
- 2 tbs butter
- 1 small onion or half of a large one
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 large rosemary sprig
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- salt and pepper
TO MAKE THE SAUCE:
Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy pan wide enough to hold meatballs until butter is just melted. Add chopped small white onion, garlic and hot pepper flakes. Cook 4 min. then add mashed anchovy filets, dried oregano, thyme and bay leaf. Sauté on med low until onion is translucent, about 4 min. Deglaze with white wine scraping the bottom and cook until wine is almost evaporated, another 3 min. Add 28 oz can of crushed by hand San Marzano tomatoes, also add some water to the can (about 1/2 cup) and swoosh it a bit to get all the tomato sauce still clinging to the can and add that to the pan as well. Let sauce come to a boil, lower heat to low and simmer sauce for 15 minutes while you prepare the meatballs.
TO MAKE THE MEATBALLS:
Combine all the meatball ingredients in a bowl. Form meatballs into uniform balls (1 and 1/2 to 2 inches across). Heat 1/4 cup canola oil (can also use olive oil, but I like using canola because it burns less easily) and fry the meatballs on med heat turning often to brown on all sides about 10 min total per batch. They don't have to be cooked all the way, just browned. Transfer meatballs to simmering sauce, cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Check on them once in a while and stop the sauce, so the bottom does not burn. Add a bit more water if the sauce is drying out too much.
TO MAKE THE ROSEMARY WHITE BEAN PUREE:
Place butter, onion, garlic and rosemary sprig into a saucepan over med low heat. Cook until the onions are soft, about 7 minutes. Watch to not brown them, you just want them soft. Drain and rinse the beans under cold water and add them to the sauce pan. Season everything with a little salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the chicken broth and continue cooking on medium heat until the broth is reduced at least by half. Puree the beans either in a blender or using an immersion blender, which I find easier and you don't have a blender to clean. (Btw, if you were to add more stock and not let it reduce too much, you get a delicious rosemary flavored white bean soup!)
You can use regular tomatoes (Muir Glen is a good brand), but I highly recommend San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them. They are unlike any other canned tomatoes out there and really capture the taste of Italy!