Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rigatoni with (Buffalo) Meatballs--My Latest "Obsession"

Do you ever see a recipe or a picture of food and get so obsessively-compulsively set on it that you simply must have it? To point where you think about it for days and every time you eat something else you think, "well that was OK but I bet _________ (insert name of recipe), would be so much better!" For some reason that is how fixated I was with this Rigatoni with Meatballs when I saw it on the cover of Olive Magazine

I mean it looks good and all--great picture, but at the end of the day it's really just pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs. Still after a week of thinking about it, I decided it was time to get it out of my head and into my stomach. I made a few changes, including making baked buffalo meatballs instead of pan-frying them in olive oil. I also added some things to the sauce, as I wanted more tomato presence and more overall flavor. All the details are in red on the recipe and in my Notes/Results below.

You can also find the basic recipe online at Olive here

Rigatoni with (Buffalo) Meatballs 
Adapted from Olive Magazine, September 2009
(Serves 4)

500g (1 lb) lean minced beef (I used buffalo)
1 large onion , grated
a pinch chilli flakes (I used a large pinch)
4 tbsp finely grated Parmesan , plus shavings to serve
1 egg yolk
a handful breadcrumbs (I used whole-grain breadcrumbs)
a handful parsley , chopped
olive oil
2 garlic cloves , finely sliced
2 x 400g (14 oz) tins chopped tomatoes
½ bottle red wine
1 beef bullion cube
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
a small bunch basil , torn
300g (about 11 oz) rigatoni

Put the first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Season really well then form into small meatballs (about 24). Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan then brown the meatballs all over. (I baked the meatballs on a foil-lined cookie sheet at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes). Scoop out and add the garlic to the pan. Sizzle for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes and red wine. (I also added bullion cube, spices and tomato paste). Simmer for 20 minutes until thickened. Add back the meatballs and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Cook the rigatoni following the pack instructions. Toss the pasta and sauce together with the basil. Spoon into bowls and scatter over Parmesan shavings to finish.

Notes/Results: Excellent--well worth the time spent thinking about it. It is easy to make and once you have your meatballs formed it goes together fairly quickly. About my changes: First I used buffalo because I like the fact that it is grass-fed, leaner and richer tasting than beef, and I used whole-grain breadcrumbs. I like to put my onions in my mini-chop and get them super-fine--almost liquid as it adds so much moisture to the meatballs. I really hate frying meatballs and prefer to bake them on a foil-lined cookie sheet in the oven because it is less fat and less mess--no splatters. With the sauce, I started out following the recipe and tasted it about 5 minutes into simmering and found that for me personally there was too much wine taste and not enough tomato taste. Now it might have worked itself out in the end, after simmering the remaining time, but I had a specific taste profile in mind so I improvised and added some things. Since the oil from pan never had meatballs in it, I added a beef bullion cube for a richer flavor, some oregano, thyme and a pinch of red chili flakes. Finally I threw in a small can of tomato paste. It turned out great--super rich, thick and just what I was looking for. With the lightly spicy meatballs (I used a decent-sized pinch of chili flakes in them), it was perfect. I would make this again for sure, with my changes to the sauce. 

I am sending this recipe along to Presto Pasta Nights, being hosted this week at Sweet Kitchen. If you want to see an amazing bunch of yummy pasta recipes, check out her round-up post on Friday. 

Have a great rest of your week!


  1. I understand your obsession. I spend a lot of my time dreaming about simple foods. Like pasta with fresh veggies and olive oil. Or simple roasted butternut squash. I think these are just comfort foods to me and so they calm my mind in a way that other more decadent foods can't. This recipe looks delicious. I still haven't had buffalo but definitely need to try it!

  2. drooling over delicious photos is what keeps me blogging and cooking! while the photo on the magazine does look good, this looks and sounds better.

  3. LOL_ when I saw "buffalo", I was thinking buffalo mozzarella (another great idea). I have had buffalo several times and I really like it. I've never had it with pasta though and I bet it is very good. It looks delicious Deb, just like the cover of the magazine : D

  4. Definitely a dish worth dreaming about! It looks so inviting.
    I love to bake my meatballs too, I find they cook more evenly that way too. I wish we could find bison here, it must exist.. it is Canada after all!

  5. Yours looks better than the one on the magazine cover! I totally know what you mean about getting fixated with a recipe. Glad that this one lived up to your dreams once you finally made it! (love the buffalo swap, BTW!)

  6. I was just wondering what to do with my ground buffalo. This would be perfect for our dinner tomorrow!

  7. wow cool just like the picture, i must try buffalo great recipe thanks Deb

  8. I prefer to cook meatballs in the oven as well - who wants to clean the cooktop?

    I love that magazine, too - always so many interesting ideas!

  9. looks like a great comfort food. I've never had Buffalo. I've heard great things about it....maybe it's time I step outside the box and give it a try.

  10. Sounds perfect, looks perfect and I'm sure it tastes perfect too.

    Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  11. Perfect timing! I know it's weird, but I've been craving meatballs!

  12. I get nagging cravings for spaghetti and meatballs, so I can see why you were obsessed. It's picture perfect - and incredibly delicious looking!

  13. Your rigatoni looks wonderful, Deb. I like the changes you've made to the original recipe.

  14. I love the idea of using buffalo in the meatballs!

    Thanks for your submission to this week's Presto Pasta Night and I hope that you will check back on Friday for the roundup.

  15. Meatballs and pasta + comfort food. Always great to cook extra. I think your pasta is better than the one in the magazine.

  16. That looks great, your pictures are beautiful, as usual. I'm going to have to get some buffalo since you have recommented it so highly. I'm glad that your dish met your long awated expectitaions!

  17. This looks so good. I'm a huge fan of buffalo meat.

  18. I've just eaten dinner and I could still sit up to a plate of that right now! Yum!


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