Do I feel guilty about buying two pounds of ground veal this week? Factoring in that this delicious meat in all its splendor only set me back a little over $6... Never! If you have a particular aversion to eating tender baby cows, you could certainly use a different ground meat. But let's be real: veal is amazing.
I wasn't quite sure what its fate would be while purchasing the meat, but inspiration struck on my drive home from work, and I made this recipe up as I went.
First, I set to work making the meatballs. You don't need to use 2 lb of meat for your meatballs, but I did, and it made tons. Believe me, you'll want leftovers.
I combined my meat with half a cup of finely grated Parmesan Reggiano (it's worth the extra expense on this recipe), half a cup of bread crumbs, half a finely diced onion, 1 large egg, 2 large cloves of minced garlic, 2 Tbsp oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Get your hands in there and get squishy. Mush, mash and mix everything until it's well combined. Have your elves, Oompa Loompas or children get to work making 1" meatballs while you drag out your big soup pot.
Heat your pot on medium heat and coat the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil. Carefully place a layer of meatballs in the pot and brown them slightly in batches. You probably have lots of little loose onion pieces that popped out of your meatballs. This is not a bad thing, so don't stress. Hold on to those little morsels.
I got tired of this and quit after doing one layer. I told you I was making this up as I went, so cut me some slack here. I drained the excess fat from the pan, and poured in about 1/3 cup of the dry red wine I was drinking at the time to deglaze the pot and scrape up all those delicious brown bits, being careful not to break up the meatballs too much. Dump in one large can of crushed tomatoes with basil, the rest of your meatballs (browned or not), and a couple canfuls of water or chicken stock if you have it. Sadly, I have no chicken stock right now, so I used water. Also go ahead and dump in those rogue onion pieces you saved from earlier.
If you like, feel free to add extras here like some more garlic (never hurts) or vegetables from your freezer. I dumped in the rest of a bag of tricolor pepper pieces from my freezer. Turn your mixture down to low heat and walk away, drink some wine, or watch a TV show.
Taste and season your stew at this point with a little salt and pepper if needed. Not too long before you're ready to eat, stir in fresh baby spinach and a little less than half a pound of pasta. I used gemelli pasta (which means "twins" because it's like two noodles twisted around eachother). The longer you let this sit and simmer, the more swollen your noodles get. Normally I would stop at al dente, but I started feeling bad and had to go lay down on the couch at this point in the recipe.
Turns out this wasn't a bad move for my soup-turned-hearty-stew. A few ibuprofin and heating pads later, I sat down with my bowl of hearty stew topped with more parmesan cheese and some fresh parsely, and some cheese toast. Perfect movie watching and blanket cuddling cuisine.
Flash forward one or two days!
Time for some leftover heaven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dump your swollen noodle stew into a casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese if you had it. (I had about a half cup of shredded cheddar, so I used that). Combine 1 Tbsp. melted butter with 1 cup panko bread crumbed, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese, and black pepper to taste. Top casserole with bread crumb mixture and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Which is better? Stew or casserole? I'm torn!
Peace, Love and Meatballs,