Finnish Meatballs with Squid Ink Pasta
October is over, Halloween has passed, and pumpkins are quickly going out of style. It’s hard to find tasty baby pumpkins, anyway, so these function more as cute bowls than anything else. But the meatballs were absolutely delicious, and the mildly intriguing taste of the squid ink pasta balanced well with them. Kids in particular tend to love eating out of pumpkins (as, admittedly, do I).
The idea for serving meatballs with squid ink pasta in baby pumpkins comes from The Lake House Cookbook by Trudie Styler and Joseph Sponzo. The recipe for Finnish meatballs comes from the NY Times, which I made and share here with only some very minor adaptations.
(Adapted with very minor changes from the NY Times recipe originally published on October 18, 2006)
3/4 C whole milk, warm to the point of steaming
3 slices white bread, crusts removed
6 oz Gruyere, grated
1 1/2 C loosely packed fresh parsley, finely minced
3/4 C finely minced onion
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground allspice
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 C flour
3/4 C beef stock
Olive oil for the pan as needed
1/2 C heavy cream
Soak the bread in the warm milk and set it aside.
Mix together the cheese, parsley, onion, eggs, salt, pepper and allspice in a large bowl. Stir well to combine. Add the beef and milk-soaked bread. Wash your hands, put on gloves if you prefer, and really mix it all thoroughly together before shaping it into 1 1/2″ balls.
Spread the flour on a plate, and roll the meatballs in the flour just to coat them. Place a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat, and add broth, letting it slowly heat (or, in my case, melt – homemade stock is better than storebought, and I keep some in the freezer at all times).
Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Sear the meatballs in the pan, and turn them as needed until they are browned on all sides. The original recipe suggested shaking the pan to turn the meatballs, but using a small pair of tongs seems to work even better. Work in batches if necessary, which it will be, unless you have a truly massive skillet.
Transfer the meatballs to the Dutch oven or saucepan and allow them to gently simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring carefully from time to time. There will not be enough stock in there to cover all the meatballs, and that is okay. The meatballs will shrink as they cook, and their liquids and oil will become part of the sauce, and it really will all work out.
Once the meatballs are done, add the cream and stir it in just until warmed.
Serve with squid ink pasta, which you can buy at some gourmet stores (I picked mine up at D’Vine on 7th Avenue in Park Slope).
If you want to serve in baby pumpkins, cut their tops off, scoop out their stringy, seedy insides, and rub them inside with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle on salt and pepper, then put the tops back on. Bake them at 375° for about 45 minutes, or until they are soft inside but still retain their shape. Most baby pumpkins are bland and serve mostly as cute bowls. If you’re lucky, though, you may find some that are more for eating.