As the final offering of the antipasti portion of our Ab Ovo Usque Ad Mala Thanksgiving menu, I was inspired by this passage in Crystal King's The Chef's Secret* - "One day I was helping Bartolomeo make meatballs when the court jester found us and, of course, the name polpetta stuck" (pg. 23). It's not that Crystal mentioned or even described an intriguing meatball dish; it's just that 'polpetta' made me chuckle as a nickname. So, I opted to make one of my own favorite Italian-inspired meatballs. These are baked in the oven, then simmered in a fragrant sauce. I did use ground venison for this version though I have also made these with lamb and beef.
makes 24 walnut-sized meatballs
- 1-1/2 pounds ground venison
- 1/2 C organic raisins
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 2 T balsamic vinegar
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1 T capers
- Also needed: baking sheet, parchment paper, fresh herbs for garnish (I used fresh thyme)
- 1 organic onion, peeled and diced
- olive oil
- 1/4 C raisins
- 1 C tomato sauce
- 1/2 C wine (I used some leftover red)
- 1 tomato, thinly sliced
- 2 T aged balsamic vinegar
- freshly ground salt, as needed
- freshly ground pepper, as needed
About an hour before you want to cook - or longer if you need to - place the raisins and anchovies in a small container. Pour the vinegar over the top and let stand. When you're ready to cook, place the raisins, anchovies, and vinegar in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times to break down the raisins.
Place the ground lamb in a mixing bowl along with the raisin mixture. Add the garlic and capers. Use your hands to mix everything together until well-incorporated.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Form meatballs and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
Place tray in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The meatballs should be firm to the touch and lightly browned. While they bake, make the sauce.
In a large skillet, warm a glug or two of olive oil. Add in the onions and raisins. Cook until the onions and cook until they begin to soften and turn translucent.
Pour in the sauce and wine. Stir to combine and lay the slices of tomatoes over the top. Cover the pan and simmer until the meatballs are ready. Spoon the sauce into a blender or food processor and gently pulse to break up the larger pieces. Return the sauce to the pan and simmer until thickened slightly.
Stir in the aged balsamic vinegar. Drop the cooked meatballs into the sauce. Simmer for a few minutes and turn to coat the meatballs with sauce.
To serve, place the meatballs on a platter or individual serving plates. Serve immediately.
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