This is one of my favorite recipes from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook The Naked Chef, with some alterations. A large cast iron skillet is very handy for putting this together and it can be a reasonably efficient process, especially if you’ve already got the tomato sauce prepped.
2 lb ground beef
2 slices of bread (I like a farm or stone white bread)
2 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, pounded in a mortar
pinch of red chilli powder (or half a small dried red chili, pounded)
1 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
1 egg yolk (I think I used the whole egg)
2 big handfuls of fresh basil
salt and pepper
Tomato sauce (see below)
Use a food processor to make your breadcrumbs with your two slices of bread. In a big bowl, add the bread crumbs, dried oregano, cumin, chilli, rosemary, egg yolk, ground meat, 2 tsp of salt and some ground pepper. I often like to add some finely chopped red onion too. Mix it all up with your hands and roll into meatballs (I usually make them 1.5 or 2 inches in diameter).
Preheat oven to 400F
Heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil in your cast iron skillet over medium high heat. If you want to check whether it is hot enough, add a few drops of water and if it immediately pops and crackles then it is ready. Add a batch of meatballs and brown them all over, turning them with a set of tongs. Be gentle so that you don’t break them up.
If you only have enough meatballs for one layer in the skillet, add in enough tomato sauce to cover, your fresh basil (tear up the bigger leaves), and add some chunks of mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan. If you have more meatballs, you might do this in two layers. Cook in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is golden.
You can certainly try the meatball recipe with a favorite tomato sauce, but Oliver suggests a simple and good recipe in the same cookbook, which is below:
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch of red chilli powder or a small dried red chilli, crumbled
2 tsp dried oregano
three 14oz cans of italian plum tomatoes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 handful of basil or marjoram (or both), roughly chopped
salt and fresh black pepper
In a thick bottomed pan cook the garlic in the 2 tbsp of olive oil on low heat for a minute or two until golden, then add chilli, oregano and tomatoes. Mix gently — Oliver suggests letting the sauce cook for a while before breaking up the tomatoes so the seeds stay inside. Bring to a boil and gently simmer for an hour. Add the vinegar, then stir and chop up the tomatoes with your wooden spoon (they should be pretty easy to break up). Add your fresh basil or marjoram, add another 2-3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. (Frankly, I just use virgin olive oil throughout, rather than two kinds).