Pork, Apple and Lemon Thyme Meatballs 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Book Report Mar 7, 2012

These are aromatic, tender and markedly different from other red-sauced meatballs.

You'll need a 5 1/2-to-7-quart slow-cooker here.

Serve with noodles.

Make Ahead: The meatballs can be formed and refrigerated the day before they are browned.

Servings: 4 - 6

Yield: Makes 16 to 18 large meatballs

  • For the meatballs
  • 1 slice (1 ounce) white bread
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 apple (7 or 8 ounces), peeled, cored and grated (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 3 scallions, white and light-green parts, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • Scant 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 medium clove garlic, mashed to a paste with a little kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
  • For the sauce
  • 1 medium clove garlic, mashed to a paste with a little kosher salt
  • 1 small red chili pepper, such as bird's-eye, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste (may substitute 2 oil-packed anchovies, finely chopped)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 28 ounces canned, no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon, for serving
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
  • Small basil leaves, for serving


For the meatballs: Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter; have a large plate at hand.

Tear the bread into small pieces and place them in a mixing bowl. Pour the milk over them and let sit for 5 minutes, then drain off any excess milk and gently squeeze excess milk out of the bread. Return the bread to the bowl, and add the pork; grated apple; scallions; olives, if using; the cheese; lemon thyme; honey; egg and garlic. Season generously with pepper and lightly with salt; use your hands to combine the mixture well, then form it into 16 to 18 large (golf ball-size) meatballs, placing them on the plastic wrap as you work.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add about one-third of the meatballs. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, using 2 forks to turn them often to promote light browning on all sides. The meatballs will not be cooked through; transfer them to the plate as you work. Repeat to brown all of the meatballs. Keep the skillet over medium heat.

For the sauce: Drain just about all of the fat from the skillet. Use a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits in the skillet, then add the garlic, red chili pepper, anchovy paste and onion, stirring to coat. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the onion has softened, reducing the heat as needed so the garlic does not burn.

Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the thyme sprigs and sugar. Cook for 10 minutes, then transfer to the slow-cooker. Carefully add the meatballs to the slow-cooker, nestling them in the sauce. Cover and cook for 7 to 8 hours on LOW; the meatballs will be tender and cooked through. Discard the thyme sprigs.

When ready to serve, transfer the meatballs and sauce to a platter or divide among individual plates. Sprinkle with the lemon zest, cheese and basil leaves. Serve hot.

Rate it

Recipe Source

Adapted from "Slow Cooking," by Antony Worrall Thompson (Mitchell Beasley, 2012).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.