BEEF MEATBALLS WITH ORECCHIETTE, KALE, AND PINE NUTS
Orecchiette means “little ears,” and refers to the ear-shaped pasta traditionally used in a Puglian dish of broccoli, anchovies, and chiles. This dish is similar in feel, with kale instead of broccoli, and the meatballs replacing the anchovies and chiles.
First prepare the meatballs. Sauté the onion and garlic with salt and pepper to taste in a hot oiled frying pan for about 5 minutes until soft and lightly colored, adding the chile flakes after a minute or two. Place the beef in a large bowl and add salt and pepper. Put the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and moisten with the milk. Add salt and pepper, then stir the breadcrumbs and onion mixture into the beef and combine well. With wet hands, shape the beef mixture into small balls about ¾ inch wide. Transfer to a lightly greased plate or baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes until firm.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, according to the package instructions.
Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Brown the meatballs for 6 minutes until colored on all sides. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until tender, then add the kale and season with salt and pepper. Sweat the kale over medium heat for 5 minutes with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water from the pasta. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, then stir in the pine nuts.
Drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of cooking water. Tip the pasta into the pan with the meatballs and stir over medium-low heat until well mixed. Add a good handful of finely grated Parmesan, and mix well with a little cooking water to help coat the pasta. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Serve garnished with another grating of Parmesan.
HOW TO SWEAT VEGETABLES
The aim of sweating vegetables is to soften them without coloring. Start by heating a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. When hot, add a little oil (or water, as called for opposite) and your vegetable, and cook, stirring frequently, for 5–10 minutes. It is important that the vegetable doesn’t brown or it will develop a bitter flavor.