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More Nigella recipes

Meatballs with Orzo

by . Featured in AT MY TABLE
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Introduction

Orzo pasta is a non-negotiable staple in my kitchen. Simply dressed in butter and salt, and maybe a dusting of nutmeg or grated Parmesan, or indeed both, it often serves at my table as a substitute for rice or potatoes, and I regularly use it to cook what in Italian is pasta risottata, a kind of pasta risotto. It makes for wonderful, cosy one-pot dishes, of which this is a pre-eminent example.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Orzo pasta is a non-negotiable staple in my kitchen. Simply dressed in butter and salt, and maybe a dusting of nutmeg or grated Parmesan, or indeed both, it often serves at my table as a substitute for rice or potatoes, and I regularly use it to cook what in Italian is pasta risottata, a kind of pasta risotto. It makes for wonderful, cosy one-pot dishes, of which this is a pre-eminent example.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Meatballs With Orzo
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin

Ingredients

Serves: 4-6

Metric Cups

For the meatballs

  • 500 grams minced beef
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons finely chopped fresh flatleaf parsley leaves (plus more to serve)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
  • 4 x 15ml tablespoons finely grated parmesan (plus more to serve)
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)

For the sauce:

  • 1 litre cold water
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons regular olive oil
  • 1 (approx 150g) onion (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons finely chopped fresh flatleaf parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 x 15ml tablespoons red vermouth
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • 275 grams orzo pasta

For the meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh italian parsley leaves (plus more to serve)
  • 2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup finely grated parmesan (plus more to serve)
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)

For the sauce:

  • 4 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons regular olive oil
  • 1 (approx 6oz) onion (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh italian parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • ¼ cup red vermouth
  • 2 x 14oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 11 ounces orzo pasta

Method

  1. Line a large baking sheet with cling film, then put all the ingredients for the meatballs into a large bowl and mix together, gently, with your hands. Don’t overmix, as it will make the meatballs dense-textured and heavy.
  2. Pinch out pieces of this mixture and roll between the palms of your hand to form meatballs that are somewhere between a cherry tomato and a walnut in size, putting them on your lined tray as you go. You should get about 30 meatballs.
  3. Fill a measuring jug with 1 litre of cold water and put near the hob.
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole or pan that comes with a lid and is large enough to take the meatballs and pasta, too. Cook the chopped onion over a medium heat, stirring every now and again, for about 10 minutes, or until completely softened, then stir in the parsley and oregano and cook, stirring for a minute or so before adding the vermouth. Let this bubble up for a minute and then tip in the tomatoes. Half-fill the empty tins with water from the jug you have at the ready, give them a good swill, and pour into the pan, along with the rest of the water and the salt. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down, clamp on the lid and leave to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  5. Uncover the pan and drop the meatballs gently into the simmering sauce. I try to let these fall in concentric circles, working around the pan from the outside edge inwards, but this is more habit than necessity. Bring it back up to the boil, then turn the heat down again, put the lid back on and simmer the meatballs for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, tip in the orzo, stir gently and turn up the heat to bring back to a bubble. Cook at a robust simmer for 10–15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. You will have to give the odd gentle stir throughout this time to make sure the orzo isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with parsley, and with Parmesan on the table alongside.
  1. Line a large baking sheet with cling film, then put all the ingredients for the meatballs into a large bowl and mix together, gently, with your hands. Don’t overmix, as it will make the meatballs dense-textured and heavy.
  2. Pinch out pieces of this mixture and roll between the palms of your hand to form meatballs that are somewhere between a cherry tomato and a walnut in size, putting them on your lined tray as you go. You should get about 30 meatballs.
  3. Fill a measuring jug with 1 litre of cold water and put near the hob.
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole or pan that comes with a lid and is large enough to take the meatballs and pasta, too. Cook the chopped onion over a medium heat, stirring every now and again, for about 10 minutes, or until completely softened, then stir in the parsley and oregano and cook, stirring for a minute or so before adding the vermouth. Let this bubble up for a minute and then tip in the tomatoes. Half-fill the empty tins with water from the jug you have at the ready, give them a good swill, and pour into the pan, along with the rest of the water and the salt. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down, clamp on the lid and leave to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  5. Uncover the pan and drop the meatballs gently into the simmering sauce. I try to let these fall in concentric circles, working around the pan from the outside edge inwards, but this is more habit than necessity. Bring it back up to the boil, then turn the heat down again, put the lid back on and simmer the meatballs for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, tip in the orzo, stir gently and turn up the heat to bring back to a bubble. Cook at a robust simmer for 10–15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. You will have to give the odd gentle stir throughout this time to make sure the orzo isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with parsley, and with Parmesan on the table alongside.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD/STORE:
Meatballs and sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Refrigerate, within 2 hours of cooking, in an airtight container. Return to a pan and reheat gently, until just boiling. Add orzo and cook as instructed in the recipe, adding a splash of extra water if needed. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a saucepan until piping hot all the way through, adding a couple of extra splashes of water, if necessary. Do not reheat leftovers if sauce was made ahead.

FREEZE:
Meatballs and sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat as above.

MAKE AHEAD/STORE:
Meatballs and sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Refrigerate, within 2 hours of cooking, in an airtight container. Return to a pan and reheat gently, until just boiling. Add orzo and cook as instructed in the recipe, adding a splash of extra water if needed. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a saucepan until piping hot all the way through, adding a couple of extra splashes of water, if necessary. Do not reheat leftovers if sauce was made ahead.

FREEZE:
Meatballs and sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat as above.

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