Did you ever have music class in elementary school? When I was in first grade, in the days before budget cuts and classes of 30+ kids, we had a once per week music class. Too young to play real instruments and with short attention spans that would make a forming a choir impossible, I remember spending most of our time singing along to really crazy songs. There was the “Year 2000″ song, with the lines: “What will we eat in the year 2000? Diet pills and protein powders.” (A scary reality.) There was also the “Monster Mash”, always popular around Halloween. And of course, there was my favorite: “On top of Spaghetti, all covered with cheese I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed.” Now a meatball turning into a meatball tree was a song I could get behind! The consequence of such early indoctrination with crazy songs was that I have forever associated meatballs with spaghetti. If you have one without the other it just doesn’t seem right.

Making Meatballs

So when a big pot of homemade tomato sauce was bubbling away on my stove, I rolled up my sleeves and made meatballs. Often, meatballs are pan fried in oil before they are finished in the sauce. To keep the meatballs on the healthy side I like to brown them on a rack in the oven, also eliminating the need to spend time fussing with them on the stove. Mixing in swiss chard, crunchy pine nuts, and salty Parmesan cheese adds a punch of flavor and color to these meatballs. Nestled atop a pile of spaghetti and yes, all covered with cheese, these meatballs will make you agree that meatballs and spaghetti really do belong together.

Meatballs with Swiss Chard and Pine Nuts (Printable Recipe)
Makes About 28 Meatballs

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef
6 oz Swiss chard
1 large egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Gently mix all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Form 2″ meatballs (about golf ball size). Set the meatballs on the rack with space in between each meatball. Bake the meatballs in the oven until browned and cooked all the way through, about 20 minutes. Stir meatballs into a warm tomato sauce and serve over pasta.

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