Meatballs with Orzo

Meatballs with Orzo


Serves 4-6

For the meatballs

  • 1 lb. ground beef

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus more to serve

  • 2 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs

  • 4 Tbsp finely grated parmesan, plus more to serve

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

  • 1½ tsp sea salt flakes

For the sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 onion (1 cup loosely packed), finely chopped

  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • 2 tsp dried oregano

  • 4 Tbsp (60ml) red vermouth

  • 2 x 14 oz tins chopped tomatoes

  • 1½ tsp sea salt flakes

  • 10 oz (1-1/2 cups) orzo pasta


  1. Line a large baking sheet with clingfilm, then put all the ingredients for the meatballs into a large bowl with 1½ tsp sea salt flakes and mix together, gently, with your hands. Don’t overmix, as it will make the meatballs dense-textured and heavy.

  2. Pinch out pieces of the mixture and roll between the palms of your hands to form meatballs that are somewhere between a cherry tomato and a walnut in size, putting them on the tray as you go. You should get about 30 meatballs.

  3. Fill a measuring jug with 1 liter cold water and put near the hob.

  4. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole or pan that has a lid and is large enough to take the meatballs and pasta. Cook the chopped onion over a medium heat, stirring every now and again, for about 10 minutes, or until completely softened. Add the parsley and oregano and stir for a minute or so before adding the vermouth. Let this bubble up for a minute, then tip in the tomatoes. Half-fill the empty tins with water from the jug, give them a good swill and pour into the pan, along with the rest of the water and 1½ tsp sea salt flakes. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down, clamp on the lid and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

  5. Uncover the pan and drop the meatballs gently into the simmering sauce. I try to let these fall in concentric circles, working around the pan from the outside edge inwards, but this is more habit than necessity. Bring it back up to the boil, then turn the heat down again, put the lid back on and simmer for 20 minutes.

  6. Remove the lid, tip in the orzo, stir gently and turn up the heat to bring back to a bubble. Cook at a robust simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. You will have to give the odd gentle stir throughout this time to make sure the orzo isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.

  7. Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with parsley, and with parmesan on the table alongside.

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