Monday, August 2, 2010

The meatball sub

There's this magical place in Arlington called the Italian Store where you really need some great local knowledge to find this one out. It's filled with the whole range of usuals from decent oils and vinegars through a reasonably authentic but simple cheese selection to a few banks of freezers offering a range of filled pastas. you can take this or leave it, but the whole reason for this place, and where all the fuss was, is their sandwich counter. That was exactly where all the noise, people, smells and activity was and I being in particularly safe hands through the whole process needn't have worried a bit. There is however a confusing quantity of varying subs, sandwiches and pizza flying out of this section, but it's the Philadelphia style subs, I have on very good authority,  are what it's all about. The fillings are all there to be had. A great selection of terrific looking prosciutto, sopressata and salami, plenty of the expected cheese offerings, and dressings, and even a few tomatoes and peppers to cut the meat and cheese duopoly. Seeing as I've never really come across the meatballs in sauce in bread thing before at close quarters, this it had to be - the Italian style meatball sub. My photo doesn't really do it justice, but that said, this is hardly the most photogenic food group going around, suffice to say, it never really stood a chance after the first bite.

Here's a quick meatballs in sauce recipe of mine. If you would, take these, split a submarine roll in half lengthwise and scrape out enough of the centre to create a hollow. Pack the meatballs in there and wrap tightly. Chill yourself a bottle of Californian Chardonnay from Columbia Valley, take all this outside, light a candle and talk rubbish for a couple of hours. it is a dinner option, honestly, needs nothing other than that really. 

Meatballs with spiced tomato sauce

Serves 6

The meatballs and tomato sauce freeze well, so I often double up the quantities to have a meal ready on stand-by for a hungry family. You can use a variety of herbs in the mince mixture; basil, thyme or rosemary also work well. This always used to be a basic with tagliatelle till I discovered the sub...

50g fresh breadcrumbs
100ml milk
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tblsp olive oil
500g each beef and pork mince
4 tblsp freshly grated parmesan
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Handful of sage and parsley, leaves finely chopped

For the tomato sauce

2 tblsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tblsp tomato purée
800g chopped tomatoes
250ml dry white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for about 8 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and stir over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the cumin and chilli flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Stir in the tomato purée, chopped tomatoes, white wine and seasoning, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until rich and thick.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the meatballs. Put the breadcrumbs in a small bowl and add just enough milk to cover. Leave to soak. Meanwhile, fry the onion and garlic in one tablespoon of the oil for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool. When cold, stir in the breadcrumbs, along with the mince, parmesan, lemon zest and herbs. Season generously, then mix well.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Shape the mince mixture into large meatballs. Heat the remaining oil in a sauté pan and brown the meatballs on all sides for about 5 minutes. Pour the tomato sauce into a baking dish and place the meatballs on top. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

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