My Goal: I want to replicate the texture of a risotto without using the rice. I am also going to let you in on my Nonna’s secret to making tender and moist meatballs: use roasted eggplant as your binder. This is a great recipe for a delicious meal to be enjoyed by kids and parents with significant nutritional value.
Cauliflower Risotto and Meatballs with Fresh Tomato Sauce
by Chef Luca Della Casa
This recipe can be made free of all 8 top allergens (milk, soy, egg, wheat, peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish)
List of Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 cauliflower head
1 can whole tomatoes (28 oz)
1 medium onion
5 cloves garlic
16 oz ground beef
1 Tbsp dried oregano
olive oil (I suggest using Colavita)
Iniziamo! (Let's Get Started)
In a sauce pan over medium heat start sautéing the chopped onion with 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Let the onions and olive oil cook gently until you get a translucent look. Next add the 2 cloves of chopped garlic and the can of whole tomatoes (do not drain the juice). Let the sauce pan simmer and gently cook for about 1 hour on medium low. Once your sauce has gently cooked for 1 hour, add 1 Tbsp of salt and ½ tsp of black pepper and blend in a food processor or with immersion blender. Be careful not to fill your food processor more than half way because the sauce will grow in volume.
Tip: You can prepare the sauce ahead of time and keep it in a sealed plastic container for use up to a week.
Now we will start on the meatballs. Roast ½ of the eggplant in the oven on a piece of parchment paper with 3 cloves of garlic and 1 Tbsp of olive oil at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until completely soft. When ready, scoop out the eggplant pulp and chop it up along with the garlic. (Picture 1). Take your chopped eggplant and garlic and mix in the ground beef, 1 ½ tsp of salt, ½ tsp of black pepper and 1 Tbsp of dry oregano. (Picture 2). Then form 12 golf sized meat balls and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Picture 3). Finally, warm a pan with 3 Tbsp of olive oil at medium to high heat. When the oil is hot, add your meatballs and let them sear on all sides. Then drain your olive oil and put the pan with the meatballs in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Now let’s make the cauliflower risotto. Start by cutting the florets off the top of your cauliflower. Chop the florets into little pieces and put the chopped cauliflower in the food processor. Let your cauliflower pulse until it is finely chopped.
Tip: You can add more cauliflower to the processor and set it aside in a sealed plastic container for an easy and fast meal.
Warm 3 Tbsp of olive oil at medium heat in a pan, then add the chopped cauliflower and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Let the cauliflower risotto cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. If you see the cauliflower risotto is picking up too much color (looking a little brown) you can add a cup of water, keep stirring until the water evaporates, and add 1 tsp of olive oil.
You can plate your cauliflower risotto in a bowl, pour some fresh tomato sauce in the middle, and place the meatballs around your sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley or basil and enjoy! (Picture 4).
Luca Della Casa is Executive Chef at the Nosh Restaurant & Silo Restaurant, San Antonio, Texas. Chef Luca has 16 years’ experience in the food service industry in Italy, Spain and the U.S. He was raised in Northern Italy, with an in-depth knowledge of Italian, French, and Spanish cuisines. He is currently a contestant on Food Network's The Next Food Network Star, which airs on Sundays at 9 pm Eastern time. He welcomes food allergic diners at his restaurant. You can find Chef Luca at facebook.com/cheflucadellacasa.