Flavoured with rosemary and finely diced pancetta, these beef meatballs pack huge flavour in every bite.
Though controversial perhaps, I’m not a huge fan of spaghetti and meatballs as a whole. There’s a romanticism to the dish, most likely thanks to a much-loved pair of pooches, but I have always found the two elements feel somewhat divorced from each other – meatballs with pasta, as opposed to a single coherent dish. I much prefer serving meatballs with polenta.
As a rule, when trying to elevate a recipe, we try not to just throw truffles at the situation – it feels too easy and at times gratuitous. However, in this instance the blank canvas of polenta feels like the perfect application for the rich and earthy flavours of truffle and only enhances the flavours of our rosemary meatballs and simple tomato sauce. Try it for yourself – you may rethink the spaghetti!
500g Minced Beef,
100g Pancetta, finely diced
½ a Medium Onion, finely diced
1 Garlic Clove, minced
30g Panko Bread Crumbs,
1 Egg, whisked
20g Parmesan, finely grated
3–4 Rosemary Branches, leavesfinely diced
Handful of Parsley Leaves, finely diced
Generous Pinch of Salt & Pepper
1 x 400g Tin of Peeled Plum Tomatoes,
½ a Medium Onion, finely diced
1 Garlic Clove, minced
Small Bunch of Basil,
Pinch of Salt & Pepper
150g Coarse Cornmeal,
1 Small Black Truffle (about 10g), or 20ml Truffle Oil
50g Unsalted Butter, cubed
30g Parmesan, finely grated
Generous Pinch of Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Parsley, a few leaves
Parmesan, finely grated
MAKING THE MEATBALLS
Place a large pan over a medium heat and add the diced pancetta into the dry pan along with the leaves from the rosemary. Gradually increase the heat to the pan as the fat renders out of the Pancetta until the pan has reached a medium-high heat and the lardons are sizzling and starting to slightly crisp. About 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
Add a small drizzle of olive oil to the pan if there is little pancetta fat remaining and then add the diced onion into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions are just starting to colour. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Remove from the heat and set the onions aside to cool down completely.
TIP – Try transferring the cooked onions to a large, cold plate and spread them out as much as possible. This will help the onions to cool down more quickly.
Pour the milk into a flat bowl and then add the breadcrumbs. Allow these to soak and absorb the milk for 2-3 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl add the beef mince and season with Salt and Pepper. Try and loosen the mince so that the seasoning is evenly spread over the meat.
Add the cooled onions, breadcrumbs, pancetta, parmesan, parsley and egg to the bowl and thoroughly mix together until evenly combined.
TIP – At this point, you should heat a small pan and fry off a little of the mixture and then taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Using lightly oiled hands, measure out 30g pieces of the mixture and shape into a round meatball. Repeat the process until all the mixture is used up.
Transfer the meatballs to the fridge for 30mins to firm up.
THE TRUFFLED POLENTA
Place the milk, water and salt into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Keep a close eye as milk has a habit of suddenly boiling over with little warning.
As soon as the milk is at a boil, remove from the heat. Slowly stream in the cornmeal, whisking into the liquid as you go, until all the cornmeal is in the pan. Whisk together until the cornmeal has thickened. This should take about a minute.
Return the pan to a very low heat and allow to cook for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the polenta has thickened and is just starting to come away from the sides of the pan when stirred. If too thick, add a splash of milk to loosen.
Add the grated parmesan into the polenta followed by the butter and stir together until fully melted and incorporated.
If using truffle, grate this into the polenta, and stir together, if using truffle oil, simply pour in and stir together in much the same way as the butter and cheese. We have found a mixture of both truffles works particularly well.
Season to taste and keep warm until ready to serve.
THE TOMATO SAUCE
Place a large pan over a medium heat with a lug of olive oil. Add the diced onion into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions are just starting to colour. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
Add the plum tomatoes into the poan and mix together, breaking up the tomatoes as you go, and top up with the water and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring the pan to a gentle simmer, add the basil into the pan and cover with a lid, or some scrunched-up baking parchment, and leave to cook for about half an hour, stirring occasionally, to prevent anything catching.
COOKING THE MEATBALLS
Place a large Frying Pan over a medium heat with a lug of olive oil. Add the meatballs and cook for 3 minutes until they are just starting to colour before turning over and cooking for a further 3 minutes and then turning over again, repeating the process until the meatballs have a decent colour all over.
TIP – If necessary you may need to do this in batches and then finish all the meatballs at the same time.
Remove and discard the basil from the tomato sauce and check for seasoning, adjusting as necessary. Gently transfer the meatballs into the tomato sauce, scraping off any fond that has developed on the bottom of the pan and mixing into the tomato sauce. Reduce the heat to the pan to a bare simmer, cover again and allow the meatballs to finish cooking through in the tomato sauce. About 5 minutes.
Serve the meatballs on top of the truffled polenta with a light grating of parmesan and a few parsley leaves.