Meatball Bruschetta alla Puttanesca

This is a leftover dish. It combines leftover ground pork (which I used to make some cilantro-spiked Vietnamese-style meatballs), fresh bread crumbs (aka: all those properly manicured tea sandwich crusts), spicy Thai chiles and fresh thyme (just had some sitting around). Those were some mean ‘balls. They’re neither Sicilian or Italian-American, nor Asian or Asian/Italian fusion — I don’t know what style they would be most influenced by, but “random leftover.”

ballin’ out

What an unpretentious name for such a primitive dish: Meatball. Ball ‘o meat ‘n things. I can’t think of one type of protein or cuisine that’s evaded these congealed, bouncy orbs of meat and starch, bound together with perhaps some egg. There’s tofu balls and falafel for the vegetarian set. Fish balls are common as well. I’m not sure why astronauts didn’t bring this terrifically compact meals-in-one-ball on their ships instead of those crazy freeze-dried ice cream cubes.

freshly stale and toasted

Instead of serving this dish with the usual mound of pasta, I crisped up some leftover bread and decided to call it a bruschetta — of sorts. It made for a slightly lower-carb, more summery meal than had it been pasta, and the appealing crunch and charred taste of the bread complemented the crisp surface of the meatballs.

These all-pork meatballs with bits of Thai chiles and a crust of fresh thyme and black pepper were truly delightful — a new favorite of mine. But certainly, you could use any meatball recipe that you’re partial to with a similar application. The olive and caper-studded puttanesca sauce added an extra punch of pungency to the dish — highly recommended, if you like it like that.

Pork Meatball Bruschetta alla Puttanesca
(makes 2 servings)

1 lb ground pork
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, coarsely crumbled (doesn’t need to be uniform, tiny specks)
¼ cup milk
¼ cup finely chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
2 small red or green chiles, very finely chopped
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp corn starch
1 Tb olive oil
2 cups prepared Puttanesca sauce (I used a jarred one this time but there’s a reliable recipe here)
8-10 1/2″ slices of a baguette
Fresh basil for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the pork, bread crumbs, milk, onion, garlic, 1 tsp of the thyme, chiles, oregano, salt, pepper, and corn starch. Fold with hands until thoroughly combined. Cover mixture and let refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven at 400 degrees or turn on the broiler. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 3-5 minutes, until slightly browned.

Form the meatballs into 4-5 round balls with your hands. Sprinkle the surfaces with a little extra salt, pepper and the rest of the thyme and pat them on. In a frying pan large enough to fit them all with some room in between them, heat up the oil on medium-high. Add the meatballs and let brown a few minutes on one side. Keep turning them and letting them sit on one side of its surface until fairly uniformly browned (noting the impossibility of a spheric “ball” having “sides”, mine came to about 5-6 sides to each ball). Heat up the puttanesca sauce while cooking meatballs.

Arrange the toasted bread slices flat on two serving plates, half to each serving. Top with meatballs, then top with the heated puttanesca sauce. Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.

Cost Calculator
(for 2 servings)

1 lb ground pork (from Chinatown): $1.89
about 1/3 long baguette (at $2.25): $0.75
About 1/2 jar of Puttanesca sauce (at $2.99): $1.50
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs (about 1/12 of a 2-lb loaf for $3.69): $0.31
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme (at $2/bunch): $0.40
1/4 cup milk: $0.15
1/4 cup chopped onion: $0.15
3 garlic cloves: $0.05
2 small chiles: $0.10
salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp oregano, corn starch, 1 Tb olive oil: $0.20

Total: $5.50

Health Factor

Seven brownie points: What’s with all this cold weather we’ve been having this week in New York? It’s made me want to eat like I’m storing up my layer of fat for the winter. This dish is far from your typical light, summer fare, with plenty of fat (though it depends on how lean the ground pork is) and sodium. Trying the same recipe with lean ground turkey might be wise if you’re looking to lose cholesterol.

7 Responses

  1. erin

    Yum! Maybe I’ll make a bunch of these some weekend and freeze them–I’ve fallen in love with the convenience of Trader Joe’s frozen turkey meatballs, but I’m quite sure they have way too much sodium and random turkey parts.

  2. thew

    Nothing like leftovers, especially for breakfast.

    People buy frozen meatballs? What’s up with that? Is there anything simplier to put together than a meatball, or, all the meatballs together into a meatloaf, another humbly named but, when done right, exquisite production.

  3. Smerky

    Perhaps they may be leftovers but that’s the prettiest meatball dish I’ve seen in a while. Sometimes leftovers make the best food, good job!

  4. cathy

    Thanks Smerky!
    Thew: I completely agree about meatloaf — and so fun to experiment with, too.
    Erin: Never thought of making a big batch and freezing them — thanks for the good idea!

  5. erin

    thew, yes I’m lazy every once and awhile. I would much rather cook, but when I get home from work at 8 or 9, I’ll admit, the frozen food comes out.

  6. Sue

    I love leftover Frankenstien-esque meals that come out well! Very crafty 🙂 Not to mention yummy sounding.

    I wholeheartedly endorse the freezer batch idea. Excellent for a quick meal on a rough day/nite. They even seem to taste better reheated after freezing. I always wind up making mini meatballs in some sort of weird spicy/sweet sauce for parties and then freezing a bunch so that I don’t get overwhelmed with party prep. It’s such a retro party thing, but they go fast, no matter how many I make an it’s fun to spear em with a cocktail toothpick!

  7. Joyce Hanson

    Hi, I just found your blog right now. And I really like the concept of not eating out in New York. I tried it last Lent for 40 days and 40 nights (see my website link–hope it works), and it was VERY HARD. Good luck to you & I look forward to keeping up with your NEOINY experiment!

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