Manchego Stuffed Smoky Meatballs with Romesco



I am on a mission to come up with a bunch of tapas style dishes that I can whip up for my summer entertaining because although I love to have guests over, I get in trouble for spending too much time in the kitchen while they are here. I have vowed to serve fewer items, served at room temperature or cold and that require very little last minute prep. Your guests want you to spend time with them, not leave them alone while you make magic happen in the kitchen, right?

One quick search of this blog will tell you two things: I LOVE a meatball and I love to add mushrooms to my ground meat a la Blend and Extend. Inspired by my most recent  recent farm tour with Mushrooms Canada and Ontario Beef , I couldn't stop thinking about doing a meatball stuffed with a bit of Manchego and served on a smear of spicy Romesco sauce. It's all the flavours of Spain that I love - nutty manchego cheese, garlic, smoked paprika and the ubiquitous, slightly chunky romesco sits somewhere between a paste and a sauce. Is it a thick sauce or a thin paste?

If you haven't tried romesco, it's super easy to make and you can use it for all kinds of things. Its great with eggs, roasted or grilled veggies, meat or fish, spread on a sandwich or even in a grilled cheese. This recipe makes more than you need for the meatballs but that just gives you an excuse to eat it on everything until its gone. 

The sauce should be brought to room temperature and you can just pop the meatballs in the oven at the last minute because you put them together in advance. They freeze really well too, which is another bonus. I try to keep them to about 1" in size so they are easy to eat in one or two bites but if you want to make them larger, just cut the cheese into bigger chunks and cook them a bit longer.






Manchego Stuffed Smoky Meatballs with Romesco



Makes about 25 meatballs

Meatballs:

400 g ground beef
150 g of button mushrooms, ground up in the food processor or chopped really finely
1/2 cup panko
1/4 cup milk
1 tbls olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp kosher salt
fresh black pepper

approx 75 grams manchego cheese, cut into small cubes - 1/4"
Romesco Sauce
handful of chopped parsley

Pour the milk over the panko and stir to make sure its coated and set aside

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened, about 3 or 4 minutes and then set aside, off the heat, to cool down to room temp.

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Put the beef, mushrooms, onion and garlic, soaked panko, egg, smoked paprika, salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a large bowl and mix, with your hand, until ingredients are well combined.

Grab a little bit of the mixture to roll a ball that is about 1" in diameter - you will get the feeling for how much is needed quickly. Roll out a ball and then, using your thumb, make a deep indent and pop in a little square of manchego and then reroll the ball around it, making sure it's totally enclosed.

Put the rolled meatballs on the baking sheet and when they are all done, pop them in the oven and cook for approximately 18 minutes. Keep in mind, that if your meatballs are larger than 1", they can take longer so when you think they are done, remove one and check it by cutting it in half.

*you can make them up to a day ahead and store them in a covered container in the fridge, being careful not to squish them.

**if you want to freeze them, put the baking tray in the freezer and when they are frozen enough to be quite solid, you can throw them into a freezer bag and leave them for up to a month. Thaw them overnight in the fridge before cooking them.


Romesco Sauce:
this is, by far, my favourite recipe for romesco so apart from adding harissa to make it spicy, I haven't changed it
adapted from Saveur 

1 dried Ancho chili, stemmed and seeded
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup whole, unsalted almonds
1 slice of bread, cut into small cubes
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small onion, sliced thinly
4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tps harissa paste (or to taste as the heat level varies depending on the brand)
1 1/2 cups chopped, jarred roasted red peppers
2 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
kosher salt and black pepper

cover the ancho chili with 2 cups boiling water, let sit for 5 minutes before you drain it and chop it roughly.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat and cook the almonds and the bread for 4 minutes until golden. Remove the almonds and bread with a slotted spoon and put in the bowl of your food processor.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the chilis, onion and garlic and cook for another 4 minutes. Add the paprika and the harissa and cook for one more minute before scraping the mixture (olive oil too) into the food processor with the red peppers and sherry vinegar and then blend with the almonds and bread until the smooth

Taste, add salt and pepper to taste
You can make this in advance but make sure you take it out of the fridge an hour ahead of time so it can come down to room temperature. It keeps for a week in the fridge.


To serve, put a good sized dollop of Romesco on a plate and then use a big spoon or spatula to smear it and set the meatballs on top of it. Garnish with some chopped parsley

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