We had this for Easter dinner and it was awesome. Usually you see a lot of leg of lamb roasts or racks of lamb for Easter and there’s nothing wrong with that. But this year I wanted to do something a bit different, and fun. This was just the thing.
I made the meatballs out of equal parts lamb and lean beef because I think the flavor of lamb can be overpowering. Lamb is also a bit on the greasy side so adding the lean beef helped round it out. Plus, lamb is an expensive ingredient so I’m ‘stretching a buck’, as they say, by only using some of it. But you still get the deep, intense flavor of the lamb in every bite.
So you’ve got the delightfully rich flavor of the meatballs paired with this light and bright mint pesto and sweet peas. And together they make the perfect meal.
*Linguini with Lamb Meatballs, Mint Pesto and Spring Peas
*For the Meatballs
In a large mixing bowl, add the following…
-1 lb ground lamb
-1 lb ground lean beef
-roughly 1/3-1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano*
-roughly 1/3-1/2 cup of plain breadcrumbs
-handful of fresh parsley, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, minced or grated with a microplane
-the zest from 1/2 a lemon (reserve the lemon to be used in the pesto)
-roughly 1/4 tsp of ground allspice
-good pinch of kosher salt and fresh black pepper
-Mix with your hands and check your seasoning by forming a small amount into a ball and cooking in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.
-Roll into a bit smaller than golf balls and place on a rack set over a roasting pan. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until firm to the touch and fat rendered.
*For the Pesto
In a food processor, add the following…
-big handful of fresh mint leaves
-almost the same amount of fresh parsley leaves
-almost the same amount of fresh basil leaves
-roughly 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
-2 garlic cloves
-roughly 1/3-1/2 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano
-juice from half a lemon
-pinch of kosher salt
–Pulse this until chopped and drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil until it becomes a thick paste.
*Pasta and Assembly
-Boil 1 box of whole wheat linguini** ’til al dente and reserve 2 cups of the cooking water before draining.
-In the now empty pasta pot, on medium heat, add about 1 1/2 cups of frozen peas (obviously if you can get fresh, use those) and allow them to heat up.
-Add your cooked meatballs and your cooked pasta. Toss.
-Add your pesto and 1 cup of the pasta water. Toss to combine.
-Add more pasta water if the sauce seems to tight.***
(*Parmigiano Reggiano is one of those luxury ingredients that I can rarely fit into my grocery budget, but when it goes on sale, I stock up heavily. I don’t buy domestic Parmesan because I don’t like the flavor, but when I can’t get the Parm. Reg., I buy Pecorino or Asiago. And whenever I do buy the good stuff, I always save the rind and freeze it. The rind of Parm. Reg. can be added to soups to give it a tremendous amount of flavor.)
(**I try to use whole wheat pasta whenever I can and whenever I think the dish won’t be overpowered by the flavor of the whole wheat pasta. This dish can take the whole wheat flavor because the flavors are so strong.)
(***If you don’t need all the pasta water, still save it for the leftovers. Adding some reserved pasta water to your leftovers will prevent them from forming one big pasta-clump-ball in the fridge.)