Okay, we'll admit it: this is a long recipe. But it's getting on toward winter in our part of the world, and we're hunkering down. The maple leaves are down; we've cut the squishy, frost-bit hostas out of the garden. We light fires after our dinner parties. So it's high time for comfort food!
Here's a traditional if over-the-top recipe for three-meat meatballs, laced with organic Kamut bulgur to add lots of whole-grain goodness to the mix. (More on that concept in the recipe.) The meatballs are roasted, then dropped into a rich sauce, stocked with veggies, tomatoes, and herbs.
We've had this dish two nights in a row. (It makes a lot but leftovers are a dream.) We'll bet you do, too!
Start by rehydrating the bulgur. Pour 1/2 cup fine-grain kamut bulgur into a very large bowl, add 1/2 cup (120 ml) boiling water, and stir well. Set aside for 20 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and you can fluff the grains with a fork. Cool to room temperature.
Yes, KAMUT bulgur, from organic khorasan wheat. Check it out here--there are links on the page for how to buy it. We encourage you to give it a whirl! You'll be amazed at the aroma: buttered popcorn. Trust us. Otherwise, substitute a fine-grind whole-grain bulgur from a health-food store or a high-end supermarket.
As the bulgur soaks and cools, make the tomato sauce. Heat 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil in a large pot, like a Dutch oven or a big, heavy, French casserole. Add 1 large chopped onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 3 minutes.
Drop in 1 seeded and diced red bell pepper and 1 seeded and diced green bell pepper. Keep cooking until softened a bit, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic, stir a few seconds, and then pour in 1 2/3 pounds (750 grams) chopped fresh tomatoes. Natch, we used plum (or Roma) tomatoes because there ain't a good globe or heirloom to be found around here until next summer.
Keep cooking and stirring all that stuff over the heat until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Then stir in 1 cup (240 ml) red wine, 1 cup (240 ml) reduced-sodium fat-free chicken broth, 6 tablespoons (90 grams) no-salt-added tomato paste, 1/4 cup minced fresh basil, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. (Drool!)
Bring that to a full simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently; reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, make the meatballs. First, position the rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350F (175C).
Crumble 1 pound (450 grams) lean ground beef, 1 pound (450 grams) ground veal, and 1 pound (450 grams) sweet Italian pork sausage meat (any casings removed) into the bowl with the soaked and fluffed bulgur.
Use your cleaned, dried hands to mix it up, then add 1 large egg, 1/4 cup (25 grams) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until well combined--taking particularly care to get that egg and those dried herbs evenly distributed. Form this mixture into 24 balls, about the size of golf balls. As you can see, our favorite tool for this task is an ice cream scoop.
Lightly oil a large, lipped baking sheet and space the meatballs out on in. Set them in the oven and bake until browned and decidedly lovely, about 1 hour.
Depending on your timing, there may be a lag right about now, the tomato sauce not quite ready. So it's a good time to consider what whole-grain bulgur does for these meatballs. Yes, breadcrumbs are the traditional binder; but they often leave the meatballs too soft, certainly flimsy. Whole-grain bulgur will give these meatballs a decidedly firmer texture, not dry, but better able to stand up to roasting and simmering. They'll cut with a knife and hold together in the bowl. Plus, if you use Kamut bulgur, you'll have that buttery, wheaty taste in every bite. Bring it on!
Once the sauce is ready, nestle those browned meatballs into the bubbling tomato wonder. Cover and continue simmering slowly over low heat for 1 hour, until the sauce's flavors have blended and you can't wait another minute for dinner. We add a little more grated cheese to the bowls--but we skip the pasta. No need for it with bulgur in the mix! So dig in. You'll see what we mean about whole-grain bulgur's incredible addition to a comfort-food favorite.