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Bonnie's Italian Stew

Bonnie is a lady I met in Pittsburgh, PA and this recipe is based on her enthusiastic description of a family favorite passed down to her. It's meat and potatoes Italian style - meatballs and potatoes in red sauce with green beans. YUM-O! Bonnie cooks the meatballs as dumplings in in sauce. I brown mine a bit in the oven first to make them a little more stable for a make ahead meal - they won't break up as easily with a crust on them when you reheat them.
  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 10 min
  • Prep: 25 min
  • Cook: 45 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Ingredients

Meatballs:

Whole milk, enough to just cover bread

Two 1-inch slices good-quality white bread, crust trimmed

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

About 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano

About 3 tablespoons EVOO

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 to 3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped

1 large egg

A generous handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil cooking spray

Stew:

2 tablespoons EVOO, plus more for serving

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 medium onions, chopped1 fresh bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 to 2 cups beef stock

Two 28-ounce cans Italian tomatoes

A handful fresh basil leaves, torn

2 pounds small to medium white or red skinned potatoes, cubed

12 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds on an angle

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. For the meatballs:
  3. Pour the milk over bread and soak to soften.
  4. Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add the cheese, EVOO, fennel, crushed red pepper, garlic, egg, parsley, salt and pepper.
  5. Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and crumble into crumbs as you add it to the meat. Combine the meatball mix and roll into 2-inch balls. Place the meatballs on nonstick baking sheet sprayed with olive oil spray and roast until browned but not fully cooked, 10 to 12 minutes.
  6. For the stew:
  7. Meanwhile, heat the EVOO in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions and bay, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and stir until fragrant. Add the beef stock and tomatoes, then break up the tomatoes with a potato masher. Add the basil, potatoes and meatballs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat back to medium, partially cover and cook 10 minutes. Add the green beans and cook 7 to 8 minutes more.
  8. Serve, or cool completely and store for make-ahead meal. Reheat over a medium-low flame, partially covered, stirring occasionally (or reheat in a 325 degree F oven) until sauce is bubbly.
  9. To serve, top shallow bowls of stew with cheese and an extra drizzle of EVOO.
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