Italian menus are slightly deceptive. For us here in the UK, the thought of an Italian restaurant conjures pictures of pizzas or steaming bowls of pasta covered in tomato or cream based sauces. On my one trip to the USA it seemed to be very much the same over there.
But visiting Italy a few years ago, meals in restaurants seemed to be less of a one course pasta fest and more of a multi-course banquet. We visited Pisa, home of the famous leaning tower. I hope the food there was typical of Italy, but it’s always difficult to tell when you’re visiting a particularly well known tourist destination. Regardless, the food was delicious.
For starters there was a platter of antipasti, slices of cured meats and salamis with pickled vegetables, then there was a primi course which involved a small plate of pasta, and then a main course, which was a fairly simple but very tasty dish of meat or fish, but no accompanying pasta.
And then of course, if you could fit it in, dessert. I don’t think we managed desert once during the vacation. Everything else was just so delicious.
So for my version of the three week diet I decided to try and adapt one of my favourite Italian classics, meatballs in tomato sauce. It's inspired by a large collection of Italian cookbooks, but is no-doubt completely un-authentic. However, it has lots of flavour and served with brocoli and courgettes instead of pasta makes a diet compatible meal.
One of the advantages of making your own meatballs is that it's one of the easiest ways to control the portion size. I weigh each meatball and have them around 1oz (25g) each then I can dish up however many are required depending on the situation.
Meatball ingredients -
amounts depend on how many you want to make, I make large batches of about 50 balls at once then freeze them.
Equal quantities of pork and beef mince.
onion, chopped small and sweated until softened.
salt, pepper, thyme and parsley (or whatever you want to flavour it with)
Mix together the pork and beef and add the sweated onion. season with salt pepper and flavourings. Then take one small ball of the mixture, flatten it into a patty and fry until cooked through. Taste for seasoning. This is the difference between every gorgeous batch of meatballs and every average one I've ever eaten. It usually take me a couple of goes to get the seasoning right, adding more salt and pepper, or thyme until I have a meatball I want to eat more of.
Then shape the meatballs into consistently sized balls. I like to weigh mine as mentioned earlier.
The balls can be frozen now or cooked by browning in a frying pan and then adding to home-made tomato sauce and cooking until they're cooked through.