Ingredients
For the meatballs
  • Ground beef – 1 pound
  • Egg – 1 large, lightly beaten
  • Italian parsley – 3 tablespoons finely chopped leaves, plus more to serve
  • Dried bread crumbs – 2 tablespoons
  • Parmesan – ¼ cup finely grated, plus more to serve
  • Sea salt flakes or kosher salt – 1½ teaspoons
  • Garlic – 2 cloves, peeled and minced
For the sauce
  • Cold water – 4 cups
  • Regular olive oil – 2 tablespoons
  • Onion – 1, peeled and finely chopped, to give 1 cup loosely packed
  • Italian parsley – 2 tablespoons finely chopped leaves
  • Dried oregano – 2 teaspoons
  • Red vermouth – ¼ cup
  • Canned diced tomatoes – 2 x 14-ounce cans
  • Sea salt flakes or kosher salt – 1½ teaspoons
  • Orzo pasta – 10 ounces (1½ cups)
Preparation

Line a large baking sheet with plastic wrap, then put all the ingredients for the meatballs into a large bowl and mix together, gently, with your hands. Don’t overmix, as it will make the meatballs dense-textured and heavy.

Pinch out pieces of this mixture and roll between the palms of your hand to form meatballs that are somewhere between a cherry tomato and a walnut in size, putting them on your lined sheet as you go. You should get about 30 meatballs.

Fill a measuring jug with 4 cups of cold water and put near the stove.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based Dutch oven or saucepan that comes with a lid and is large enough to take the meatballs and pasta, too. Cook the chopped onion over a medium heat, stirring every now and again, for about 10 minutes, or until completely softened, then stir in the parsley and oregano and cook, stirring for a minute or so before adding the vermouth. Let this bubble up for a minute and then tip in the tomatoes. Half-fill the empty cans with water from the measuring jug you have at the ready, give them a good swill, and pour into the pan, along with the rest of the water and salt. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, clamp on the lid and leave to simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Uncover the pan and drop the meatballs gently into the simmering sauce. I try to let these fall in concentric circles, working around the pan from the outside edge inwards, but this is more habit than necessity. Bring it back up to a boil, then turn the heat down again, put the lid back on and simmer the meatballs for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, tip in the orzo, stir gently and turn up the heat to bring back to a bubble. Cook at a robust simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. You will have to give the odd gentle stir throughout this time to make sure the orzo isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with parsley, and with Parmesan on the table alongside.


Excerpt from At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking by Nigella Lawson. Copyright © 2018 by Nigella Lawson. Used with permission by Flatiron Books. All rights reserved.