How do you fair with this transition of seasons? September has always felt like the most clunky month of the year to me. It’s a time when I need to really pay attention to my feet on the ground- walking through the world with purpose because my brain wants to float on up.
Also, I’m listening to a lot of 90’s Alanis Morissette, if that gives you an idea of where my head is.
And with that… a very grounding dinner. Warm pasta and meatballs with greens and cheese for the belly and soul.
Meat, starch, and cheese are on the menu for the foreseeable future, amen.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- ground lamb. You could also use ground turkey and I’m going to make that version for myself this week.
- red onion and chopped garlic
- crumbled feta and fresh mint
- frozen spinach, thawed with a majority of the moisture squeezed out of it.
- lemon zest and a squeeze of the juice for good measure
- an egg
- orzo pasta – like rice but not.
I’ve found that this is the sort of recipe you can shop for once and make a few times. Grab extra meat and spinach – store them in the freezer. Grab extra orzo and the rest are ingredients you might have kicking around your kitchen most of the time anyway (save for the feta which thankfully lasts a long time in the refrigerator).
Into the ground lamb add red onions.
Raw will keep them sharp and onion-y which is nice in these meatballs.
If you’d like to soften the onion taste, you can sautee them in a bit of oil until browned and mellow.
I typically only have one type of breadcrumb on hand and they’re usually panko.
When I need a seasoned bread crumb, I take the panko and mix it with any bevy of dried herbs I have in the pantry: dried oregano, dried basil, a dash of cumin and cayenne, a kick of salt and pepper. Done!
Keeping things bright! I love lemon for balance.
A teaspoon of zest and a squeeze of the lemon itself.
In also with fresh chopped mint, a box of frozen spinach (thawed, drained, and chopped), and egg and a handful of feta.
That’s a lot for a ball, but we can handle it!
The balls are rolled by hand into about 1 1/2-inch bit. It’s about three tablespoons of the meat mixture per ball.
The meatballs are seared to create a crispy outside. You can do this in a skillet and transfer the mixture to a baking dish or you can sear the meatballs in a Dutch oven and make this a super simple one-pot dish.
Seared meatballs over a bed of raw orzo.
The meatballs aren’t cooked through entirely. They need more quality time in the oven.
Add chicken stock.
This is my favorite chicken stock. It tastes amazing and lasts for such a long time, so I always have stock in the refrigerator.
Baked, covered and uncovered. The orzo absorbes the liquid and the whole mixture bakes into what can only be described as a really comforting meatball casserole. I love this served with extra fresh mind, more feta for sure, and lemon wedges.
I’m going to make this recipe on Instagram Stories today using turkey meat if you want to see a live step-by-step! @joythebaker
Photos with friend and whiz-kid Jon Melendez.
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (you could also use dark ground turkey meat!)
- 9 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry and coarsely chopped
- about 1 cup of finely chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, plus more for topping
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
- 2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus more for topping
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups orzo
- 2 1/2 - 3 cups chicken broth
- lemon wedges, for serving
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, gently combine lamb, spinach, onion, feta, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest, mint, and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the salt and pepper. Mix until all of the ingredients are well combined. Form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs, being careful not to squeeze the mixture too vigorously.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium (5 to 6 quart) Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs and cook, turning to brown all over, about 10 minutes. It's easier to turn the meatballs if the pan isn't over-crowded so cook the meatballs in batches. Remove the seared meatballs to a plate to rest.
- Add the orzo to the Dutch oven and stir to coat with the oils in the pan. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the broth, then return the meatballs to the pan. Instead of using a Dutch oven I transferred the mixture to a large, shallow baking dish.
- Cover the mixture and bake until the orzo has absorbed most of the liquid, about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the orzo is completely tender, about 10 more minutes. If it doesn't look like the liquid is absorbing, give the mixture a stir. If it feels like the orzo isn't cooked through, add the remaining 1/2 cup of broth.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve warm topped with more feta, fresh mint, and lemon wedges! Enjoy!