I have given up on pre -dinner snacks in our household, usually because dinner is such a big event – as is dessert. So I do not expect people to eat anything, aside from a few olives or spiced nuts, before they make their way through the feast I will inevitabley serve. That being said, there are occasions when nibbles (including meatballs like these) are warranted – and those are ‘casual’ drinks. You know those times you invite the neighbours over for a Saturday afternoon glass of wine or you have someone popping over to discuss a matter and you know (because it has happened so many times before) that conversation will take place with a champagne in hand. Those are the times that these little morsels are very much needed.
So onto the meatballs, I found the original recipe a little overspiced – the sage was doing battle with a heap of toasted fennel seeds and it did not win. So I removed the fennel and made them again and they were just right. Perfect with a little dipping of marinara sauce and perfect for your next lot of casual visitors…
1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for frying
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces ground pork
18 small fresh sage leaves (or large ones cut into small pieces)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten to blend
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Marinara sauce, warmed (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Stir ricotta and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl until smooth. Mix in garlic and next 4 ingredients. Add pork and gently fold until just combined.
Scoop out scant tablespoon-fuls of pork mixture. With dampened hands, roll portions between your palms into 1-inch balls and place on your sheet. Wrap 1 sage leaf (or piece of a sage leaf) around each ball and press gently to adhere.
Place flour, egg, and panko in 3 separate medium bowls. Working with 1 meatball at a time, dredge in flour, rolling between your hands to remove excess flour. Dip in egg, allow excess to drip back into bowl. Roll meatball in panko, pressing gently to coat. Return to sheet.
Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of a large heavy pot. Pour in oil to a depth of 2-inch. Heat over medium heat until thermometer registers 350°. Line another baking sheet with parchment and set a wire rack inside.
Working in batches, fry meatballs, turning often, until light golden and crisp, about 1 minute (they will finish cooking in the oven). Transfer to wire rack and let cool.
Preheat oven to 275°. Bake meatballs in batches on wire rack in baking sheet until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve, or keep warm in oven for up to 45 minutes.
Pour some warm marinara into a small bowl and serve alongside for dipping.
Notes: If you would prefer a little less sage then skip the sage leaf stage and just roll into balls, coat and cook as instructed.
Source: adapted from Bon Appetit
© 2012, Michelle. All rights reserved.