Sometimes you get recipes from a cookbook, or online, or from a friend. This recipe for spinach lamb meatballs started in a cookbook in NY, bounced to the US West coast, and then back again to NY. It was a cross-country collaboration!
Here’s what happened. A friend had some ground lamb and was looking for dinner ideas.I mentioned a spinach lamb meatball recipe I had and gave her the ingredients.
She wanted to serve her meatballs with marinara sauce, so I suggested she might want to change it around a bit (the original recipe called for nutmeg, which wasn’t going to work with marinara sauce). Also, while the recipe I had fit her requirements, it was, honestly, a bit bland, and needed more punch.
She added her own spin, then told me what she did. I made a few more changes, and ended up with this recipe.
Red wine vinegar stands up to the lamb’s assertive flavor, while cumin adds a warm, nutty, slightly spicy bite. The spinach adds color, and those all important vitamins and iron too.
It’s pretty easy to put together too. First, you sweat the onions (cook them over low heat for a few minutes, until they become transparent). Then wash and dry the spinach (this is important, otherwise the meatballs will be too moist and won’t hold together). The rest is simply measuring, mixing, and rolling.
There are probably hundreds or thousands of variations of this easy Mediterranean fish stew. In San Francisco, they add shellfish and clam juice or fish stock and call it cioppino. Sicilians make it with sea bass or orange roughy. The Greeks use dill and potatoes, while the Portuguese add sausage.
This particular version has tomatoes, potatoes, and some citrus zest. I adapted it from a New York Times recipe (which made a big pot of stew, enough for 6 people, and included the dreaded anchovies). I also threw in some mushrooms (mostly because I wanted to use them up). There’s no shellfish, and I made it with cod (which is more sustainable and budget-friendly than orange roughy or sea bass). I also swapped the chopped tomatoes they called for with tomato puree (that’s what I had, and it cooks faster).
There are two nice things about this recipe. The first is that it’s super-easy to make. Just make the stew, and then add the fish at the very end. Don’t overcook it!
The second is that you can make it in advance up to the point where you add the fish. When you’re ready to eat, reheat the stew and add the fish once it’s hot.
This penne with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives recipe is fairly hands-off, simple, and delicious. And, of course, it’s just one serving!
It also allowed me to make some progress using the enormous jar of sun-dried tomatoes that’s been in the back of my fridge forever! Add some pasta, a bit of feta cheese, olives, and a few leaves of fresh basil, and you get a tasty lunch with only a few minutes of real work. (I have a basil plant growing in my window, so that basil was really fresh).
The feta was leftover from making a feta and spinach omelette, so it also helps toward my goal of not wasting anything. I just hate having a couple of tablespoons of sauce, or a few random bits of fruit or vegetables turning into a science experiment.
Now, on to more tasty mental pictures.
Since the tomatoes are dried, you’ll have to start by heating them and softening them up a bit. You can do this overnight (if you’re organized), or just start them a few minutes before you start boiling the water for the pasta.
Once the tomatoes are soaked and the pasta is cooked, the rest of the recipe takes only a few minutes to prepare. Just cook the garlic, toss the remaining ingredients in the saucepan you used to cook the penne and heat them up with the pasta.
Since the entire meal only uses one pot, it’s also easy to clean up afterwards. I don’t have a dishwasher, so easy cleanup is good!
The nice thing about sun-dried tomatoes is that they do last a long time (if you happen to have bought a giant jar because the price was great). In addition to pasta, you can toss them on pizza, mix them in with eggs, add them to pesto, or put them in meatloaf.
My mom only eats black olives and my dad only likes green ones. I never really liked olives of any kind that much until I tried these. They were set out as a bar snack (of all things). They are bright green, mild, and don’t taste sour or briny like most olives do. They’re great with this pasta dish, and also marinated in olive oil with slivers of garlic and rosemary (which is how the bar served them). Delicious and great for a wine and cheese cocktail hour (either just for you or for company).
More Single Serving Recipes with Pasta or Feta Cheese