Before I start telling you about today's recipe, I have to say that Georgie, my lovely husband, used to be a big time pasta lover and eater! He could have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner! He even claimed that each different shape of pasta has its own particular taste!! To me that was just nonsense...pasta tastes like pasta it doesn't matter if it is long, thin, flat, round or looks like a mad professor's ill advised fashion choice. Then we discovered that his frequent lower abdomen troubles were caused by a gluten intolerance and that meant the end of his pasta love affair. I am sure he still fantasises about a huge bowl of steaming pasta with tomato sauce...I don't blame him, there is no harm in fantasising. Over the years I have experimented with many different alternatives to normal pasta. Rice noodles and spaghetti were pretty nice, better actually than some corn based gluten free pastas. They hold their shape better and have a good relationship with the sauce as long as you do not overcook them.
Bear with me for a little while longer please....
Just before summer I came across a website called Balanced Bites. I was searching for a recipe to make meat or vegetable broth to freeze and use in my cooking instead of cubes. I found a great recipe and I also found a lot of other interesting information concerning some of mine a Georgie's health issues (chronic fatigue, acne, bloating and IBS). Diane Sanfilipo had a book coming out and on an impulse I pre-ordered it (I am a sucker for new cookbooks) and then forgot about it. It arrived about a week after we returned from our summer vacation happy and slightly heavier due to our summer indulgences. The book is called Practical Paleo. I had no idea what the paleo diet was and I have to admit that even after reading the book (which is, by the way, very well written minus some spelling errors which I hope will be corrected by its second edition) I still will be at a loss if someone asks me to explain what this diet/philosophy is about. The only thing I can say for sure and from my own experience is that since I stopped eating grains and dairy and some nuts my skin problems almost disappeared and most importantly Georgie got his energy back!
One book led to the next and that's how I got to find this very easy and flavourful recipe. Small, succulent balls of beef together with lively green, nutritious zucchini "noodles", sautéed together in a lemony Basil & Walnut pesto. Georgie's verdict....: "The best non-pasta pasta dish I've ever had. You have to teach me how to make this". My verdict...: amazing taste for an amazingly small amount of work, that is if you have a mandolin and know how to use it to make those noodles :)
Zucchini "Noodles" with Meatballs & Basil-Walnut Pesto
Recipe from "The Food Lovers Make it Paleo" by Bill Staley & Hayley Mason
1 kg ground beef (or 500 gr ground beef and 500 gr ground pork)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg, whisked
4 medium zucchini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Basil & Walnut Pesto
2 cups basil leaves, washed and dried with a paper towel
1/2 cup walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. In a large bowl combine the meat with spices (salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder) and mix well with your hands. Add the egg and mix a little more until the egg is absorbed by the meat. Form small balls with you hands (about the size of a golf ball) and place them on a parchment-lined baking tin. Roast them for 20 - 25 minutes.
In the meantime make the pesto by blending all the ingredients together for a few minutes. You may add more olive oil to suit your taste.
Cut the zucchini into thin noodles using a mandolin. If you do not have one you can use a potato peeler and peel thin "tagliatelle" like pieces. One way or the other they still taste amazing!! Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the zucchini for 2 - 4 minutes. If you leave it more it might turn mushy.
Toss the zucchini noodles with the pesto and top them with the roasted meatballs.
Note: If you want the meatballs to become even more succulent you can add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the meat and leave it in the fridge overnight before you shape it into balls.