Monday, May 22, 2006

Penne with turkey meatballs

What we have for dinners pretty much reflects what are on sale in the grocery store on that particular week. Being a poor pHD student's wife means we are living on a shoestring budget. (ok, maybe I have exaggerated a bit, but you get the idea) Unlike the time when I earned my own paycheck, I have to forego some of the luxury I took for granted last time. Having said this, I am still pretty amazed by how well we are fed with the limited allowance.

I think the key is really to stock up when price is low, and buy more fresh products. It's more expensive to buy processed food here, which is good news to us. This is because we hardly buy processed food! We may be short on money, but time is what I have. Plenty of time, if you ask me. So, I really don't mind spending some time to skin and bone the chicken thighs, and peel the prawns! And nothing gives me more satisfaction than cooking and baking from scratch! Errr, ok, most of the time. Sometime, I choose the shortcut to make life a bit easy for myself.

This week for example, we bought 2 pounds of ground turkey. First pound was being used in a new recipe that I saw from Giada De Laurentiis's "Everyday Italian". I am familiar with beef meatballs and meatloaf, but turkey meatballs? I never heard of that. Still, I am curious how it will turn out, as turkey is much leaner and healthier than beef.....

The ground turkey was first mixed with onions, garlics, parmesan cheese, egg, milk, crumbs, salt and pepper. Use hands, if you want everything to mix really well. Then, the mixture was rolled into golf balls size and dropped into the heated skillet. It was a slow process, especially when you have lots of meatballs. My 1 pound recipe required me to repeat the process 3 times.

After the meatballs were cooked, I drained the oil, and deglazed the pan with tomato basil sauce. The meatballs were then returned to the pan. We were pretty pleased with the meal, and I am surprised that this turkey version has just as much flavour as the beef meatballs. This will definitely return to our dinner table soon.

The total cost of this meal is less than 3 dollar. And we have it for dinner and next day lunch. This brings the cost per person per meal to less than 1 dollar. Isn't that pretty impressive?

Penne with Turkey Meatballs (adapted from Giada De Laurenttis)

1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup grated Romano
1 onion,minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups tomato sauce
1 pound dried penne pasta

In a large bowl add bread crumbs milk and mix until well combined. Mix in eggs and 1/2 cup Romano cheese, onion and garlic and mix well. Add turkey and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into golf-size balls.
In a large skillet heat the oil over medium high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown, about 8 minutes total. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow meatballs to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm on stove. Be careful not to overhandle the meatballs since they are soft and fragile.

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse pasta with water since you want to retain the pasta natural starches so that the sauce will cling to the penne.

Remove meatballs from sauce and place in serving bowl. Pour some tomato sauce over meatballs, but leave about 1 cup of sauce in skillet. Place the cooked penne into the skillet with the remaining sauce and toss well. Pour sauced pasta into a large serving bowl. Serve alongside the meatballs.

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