Roasted Lamb Meatballs with Tomato-Bean Ragout and Green Garlic

Although these meatballs are made primarily with lamb, I like to grind a little pork fatback into the mix. It’s more neutral than lamb fat (which has a strong, gamey taste that isn’t for everyone) and helps yield tender meatballs. A stand mixer with a meat-grinding attachment makes quick work of the grinding process. If you don’t have a grinder, buy ground lamb and ask the butcher to grind some fatback for you. In a pinch, you can cube the fat into small pieces and then pulse it in a chilled food processor until the fat is roughly the same size as the ground lamb. If green garlic isn’t available, finish the dish with two cups of sliced green onions instead.

Roasted Lamb Meatballs

1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pound lamb shoulder, trimmed, cut into cubes, and ground in a meat grinder
4 ounces pork fatback, cut into cubes and ground in a meat grinder
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Tomato-Bean Ragout (recipe below)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sliced green garlic (white and light green parts only)
1 lemon, for zesting

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Oil a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, milk, bread crumbs, and cheese. Let sit for 15 minutes.

2. In a dry sauté pan over medium heat, toast the fennel seeds until aromatic. In a large bowl, combine the lamb, fatback, garlic, paprika, fennel seeds, salt, and red pepper flakes. Pour in the egg mixture. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until evenly distributed. The mixture will feel sticky. Form into 18 to 20 balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring the ragout to a gentle simmer. Using tongs, transfer the meatballs into the ragout, cover, and simmer for at least 5 minutes.

4. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Add the green garlic and sauté until soft, about 30 seconds. Spoon the bean ragout into 4 warmed bowls, ensuring that each portion has 3 to 5 meatballs. Top with a spoonful of green garlic. Grate lemon zest over each bowl to finish.

Next: Tomato-Bean Ragout


Tomato-Bean Ragout

When fresh, cranberry beans are just that: cranberry-colored, and speckled with bits of white. Yet once cooked, they turn a flat shade of brown. They are also called by their Italian name, borlotti. If unavailable, use dried pinto beans instead.

makes 4 cups

1 cup dried cranberry beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cups Canned Tomatoes (find recipe here)
31/2 cups chicken stock
2 or 3 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh
Italian parsley
Kosher salt

1. In a bowl, cover the beans with about 1 inch of water and soak overnight. Drain.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the vegetables start to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Stir in the beans and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Pour in the stock and add the bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, decrease to a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are cooked through, about 1 1/2 hours. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Preservation KitchenExcerpted from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant and Kate Leahy. Copyright © 2012 by Paul Virant and Kate Leahy. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher.