Hello! I have made the Meatballs with Orzo three times now, but each time my meatballs come out quite hard and dense. I’ve tried making them slightly bigger and also taken care not to mix or press them too much, but any less and they would fall apart and not be balls at all! The orzo also took longer to cook than 15 minutes, as I had to stir it frequently to stop it sticking to the pan. I used a 24cm Le Creuset and 5% beef mince. Many thanks!
Nigella's Meatballs With Orzo (from AT MY TABLE) cooks the meatballs and orzo together in a tomato sauce. Usually if meatballs are dense or heavy then it is because the meatball mixture has been handled too much and the minced (ground) meat has become compacted. It may help to use beef with a slightly higher fat content, as the extra fat will provide a little extra moisture. However, as the meatballs are poached in the tomato sauce they shouldn't dry out that much.
It could also be that the meatballs are boiled too hard, rather than simmered, which will make them heavier and tougher. Cast iron pans tend to hold heat well, so it can be difficult to regulate the sauce. Bring the sauce just up to boiling point and then turn the heat down so that the sauce is at a barest simmer before adding the meatballs. If the orzo is taking longer to cook then we also suggest adding it earlier in the recipe, maybe giving the meatballs only 15 minutes covered cooking time. Raise the heat to a simmer and add a splash of extra water from a freshly boiled kettle if the sauce looks like it is becoming too thick.