My mom gave me an old, worn-in dutch oven when I moved into my first apartment in college. It was a dull, earthy brown and the enamel inside showed signs of the many meals that had slowly simmered away in it over the years.
It quickly became my favorite cooking pot, despite collecting plenty of newer, prettier vessels since then. I learned to make pasta sauce, beef stew and homemade chili. I taught myself how best to caramelize a heaping pot full of sweet onions from scratch, and every soup I make starts with a slick of olive oil across the bottom. It’s the sort of pot I especially rely on this time of year, when chilly, drizzly days beg for warm, comforting soups, slow braises, and hearty meat dishes.
Yesterday, as the wind whistled insistently through the pines outside the kitchen window, I pulled out my trusty old, brown pot and started on a spicy, Spanish-inspired tomato sauce. This particular day called for homemade meatballs.
It might go without saying, but when making meatballs, I like to start with really good meat. Often, that would mean chicken or pork, but in this case, I had some really good lamb in mind.
I recently began a partnership with Shepherd’s Pride, a national co-op of U.S. family lamb ranchers, who had kindly provided me with some of their high-quality, fresh lamb from a local grocer. The mild-flavored meat is ground daily in-house by the butcher, and I was looking forward to switching up my meatball game.
All of the co-op’s American lamb is sustainably raised on a high-nutrient, 100% vegetarian diet, without any added hormones or antibiotics, but what really appeals to me is that Shepherd’s Pride is the only “Where Food Comes From” source-verified lamb in the United States.
“Where Food Comes From” is a third-party food auditing program – similar to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for seafood – that traces products from “farm to fork.” That means, by scanning the QR code on all Shepherd’s Pride packages, you can learn about the family that raised your lamb, and where it came from, beyond your grocery butcher’s case.
Knowing where my food comes from, as well as who the farmers and ranchers are who grow and raise my food, is deeply important to me, and I am all about this kind of added transparency, safety and accountability in our food system. Not to mention, high-quality meat simply tastes better.
As the simple, spicy tomato sauce bubbled away, I got going on some Spanish-style lamb meatballs.
And. These. Meatballs…
They start with lean, all-natural ground lamb, then begin building flavor with quick caramelized onions, breaking down the natural sugar to add a nutty, sweet-and-savory richness (and also release some moisture). Next we add a bevy of herbs and spices: garlic, fresh parsley, oregano, smokey cumin, nutmeg and red pepper flakes. We follow with classic breadcrumbs and egg, then finish with the good stuff: hard, salty, grated cheese.
Usually, I would opt for Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano here, but since we’re working with Spanish flavors, I took inspiration from La Mancha, and added some super finely-grated Manchego, a firm, buttery, sheep’s milk cheese.
The meatballs are browned in the oven, then are nestled into the dutch oven to finish cooking and soak up the spicy tomato sauce. You could easily cook some pasta or polenta to accompany the meatballs, but I served them simply, layered in bowls of homemade red sauce to be nibbled on with crispy flat bread, tapas style.
You can join in on the fun too! Be sure to enter for a chance to WIN your own Dutch Oven courtesy of Shepherd’s Pride! (link below the recipe)
Find additional lamb recipes and cooking info, and learn more about Shepherd’s Pride lamb, and the many fourth and fifth generation ranchers behind the company, here.Print
This post is sponsored by Shepherd’s Pride. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that support Fork Knife Swoon!