My spouse is a big fan of puttanesca sauce because he loves olives and capers. So when I spotted this recipe in the March issue of Sunset magazine I knew I had to make it for him. Anyway, few people can resist a slider.
I actually saw Mario Batali prepare something very similar on the Iron Chef on the Food Network. At the time I thought it was an ingenious idea and filed it away in my tiny brain for later. But, until this issue of Sunset came out, I had forgotten all about it. (Note, I did mention the tiny brain.)
Of course, I didn't follow the recipe word for word. Not just because I am a contrarian but because I didn't have all the ingredients I needed. Let me just say that the recipe didn't suffer terribly from my tinkering. Somethings you have to work very hard to wreck.
So much of this recipe can be done in advance and that is why they would make an excellent finger food for any party. Just reheat the meatballs in the sauce and serve them up on soft rolls. And if you ever had a hard time getting your children to eat and enjoy a meal.........try this!!!
PUTTANESCA MEATBALL SLIDERS
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. each red chile flakes and fennel seeds, crushed (use a mortal and pestle on the seeds)
1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes, pureed
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 Tbsp. roughly chopped capers
1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs)
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp . each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 lb each humane/organic ground beef and ground pork
1/4 cup vegetable oil
16 fresh basil leaves about the size of dinner rolls
16 small (2 inch wide) soft dinner rolls, split and toasted
1/2 cup shaved pecorino
Make sauce. In a pan over medium heat, saute onion in oil until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, chile flakes, and fennel; cook until garlic softens, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 15 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, make meatballs: In a large bowl, combine egg, milk, and panko and let sit for a few minutes. When crumbs are softened, stir in grated pecorino, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Add meats, breaking up with your fingers, and mix well with your hands. With wet hands, roll meat mixture in to 16 balls, each about 1 1/2 in. wide. (I made my meatballs larger so it only made 10 because I wasn't serving them for a party.)
Heat oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook meatballs until well browned all over, turning as needed, 6 to 8 minutes total; reduce heat if needed. With a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to paper towels.
Gently stir meatballs into sauce, return to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is very thick, 10 to 15 minutes.
To serve, put a basil leaf in each roll. Set a meatball and a generous spoonful of sauce on each basil leaf, then add a little pecorino. Close sandwiches with toothpicks if you like. Serve with napkins.