Rocco, our much-missed deli owner, used to make his own sausages, spiked with fennel and chilli. It occurred to me that I should try this combination in meatballs. Delicious.
Meatballs without breadcrumbs sometimes become compacted. The cheese may counter that effect here; certainly, these ones were crumbly (withoutout falling apart) and moist.
This quantity makes about 20 golfball sized meatballs, probably serving two.
150g beef mince
150g pork mince
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed with a little salt
2tbsp Parmesan, grated
1tsp fennel seeds
1 or 2 dried chillis, whizzed in a small electric mill or coffee grinder
Salt and black pepper
Olive oil, for frying
Mix the ingredients (apart from the oil) with your hands, and form meatballs between your palms.
Put a little oil in a heavy pan over a medium heat, and fry the meatballs, in batches if necessary. Turn them once. Remove when brown – they do not have to be cooked through.
Make a tomato sauce: soften a finely chopped onion in the oil in the pan – 5 to 10 minutes. There may be some bits of meat left in there too; you’ll probably need to turn down the heat, and perhaps add a little more oil, to prevent the onion from catching and the meat from burning. Throw in a chopped garlic clove for a minute. Tip in a tin of tomatoes with a little salt, and simmer, uncovered, breaking up the tomatoes. As the mixture starts to thicken, return the meatballs to the pan, and simmer them in the sauce (still uncovered, unless it appears to be getting too thick) for about 15 minutes, turning once.
Serve with rice.