Friday, January 28, 2011


I first made this recipe from The Kitchn about a year ago, but for some inexplicable reason I never posted it (even though I remember taking photos and everything). I’m so glad I suddenly decided to try it again, because it’s incredibly delicious. I’ve never been a particular fan of meatballs, but these are enough to make me reconsider—moist, tender, and flavorful, bathed in a tangy, plate-lickingly addictive lemon-thyme pan sauce. Be forewarned: The sauce will be on the thin side, but don’t worry about it. The more sauce, the better! I think the first time I made this, I kept cooking it down in an effort to thicken it and ended up with too little; I recall the meatballs and noodles being somewhat dry. This time I was in a hurry and didn’t bother letting it reduce much, so my portions were a bit soupy but oh so tasty, with the sauce permeating the meatballs and coating every cranny of the noodles. (If you don’t like noodles, potatoes, rice, or bread would also be good sauce-soaker-uppers.)

I like that this is a substantial dinner (I recommend a nice green salad on the side) but feels so much lighter than the traditional leaden meatballs in tomato or cream sauce. Its citrusy zip will brighten up a dark winter’s day, but you could also enjoy it in the spring…Excuse me now while I enjoy a reverie about how good asparagus would taste dipped in lemon-thyme sauce.

POSTSCRIPT, JUNE 2011: I was on to something up there, because you know what's good in this? Asparagus! Just cut it into one-inch pieces, steam it, and throw it into the pan with the sauce, meatballs, and noodles. The green makes it pretty, the tastes go beautifully together, and you've got a one-dish meal right there. I'm doing it all the time from now on.

½ cup milk
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 egg
1 pound ground pork
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to taste
4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups chicken broth
¾ cup dry white wine
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Zest of one lemon
8 ounces uncooked egg noodles

1. Put the milk and breadcrumbs in a small bowl and mix with a fork. When the crumbs have softened, squeeze out the milk and discard it.

2. Gently sauté the onion in a little olive oil until it is soft but not colored. Season with a pinch of salt and set it aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, beat the egg with a fork or whisk. Add the pork, breadcrumbs, onion, ¼ cup Parmesan, sage, 1 teaspoon thyme, cayenne, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix with hands thoroughly.

4. Shape the mixture into walnut-sized balls. (I made mine on the small side and got about 40 of them.)

5. Over medium heat, place a skillet large enough to hold all the meatballs in one uncrowded layer. (For extra flavor and convenience, I used the same skillet I’d just used for sautéing the onions.) Add a little olive oil. When the skillet is heated, add the meatballs, shaking the skillet to keep them from sticking. Using tongs to turn so they brown evenly, cook the meatballs until they are no longer pink in the center and lightly browned on all sides. Remove from the skillet to a plate.

6. Add the chicken broth and wine to the skillet and simmer until reduced by about a third. Add the lemon juice and thyme, then return the meatballs to the skillet. Simmer at least 10 minutes, but up to half an hour.

7. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles until al dente. Drain and add to the skillet with the sauce and meatballs. Toss well and serve garnished with lemon zest and grated Parmesan.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 to 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good. If you want, you can do steps 1–4 several hours or even a day ahead (or you could probably freeze the uncooked meatballs as long as you like). Leftovers from the finished dish will keep well in the fridge for a week or so.

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