I’m not a vegetarian.
I also don’t believe in dietary dogma. So while I think that humans are best off including some amount of animal product in their diets, I won’t try to push that opinion on someone who chooses to do otherwise.
The bottom line is that I’m a fan of meat- red meat, white meat, the other white meat- all of the above. But one thing I’m adamant about is sourcing meat from responsibly raised animals.
Not everyone is concerned with the welfare of livestock, but most people I know are somewhat interested in feeding their families quality food, and healthy meat comes from happy animals. And if I were to take a guess, a wild boar feels pretty content with his place in the world.
I was able to get my hands on some wild boar meat courtesy of Marx Foods, and it has quickly become one of my favorite proteins. The pork that we eat today was originally domesticated from the wild boar in Asia and Europe, which is naturally leaner and richer tasting. The original free-ranger, wild boars spend their days trying to satisfy a hefty, piggish appetite by foraging for roots, tubers, and just about anything they can get their greedy snouts into.
All that good eatin’ is accompanied by plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and exercise.
I was in the mood for a good meatball, so I paired my wild boar up with some earthy flavors and set to it.
The funny thing about spaghetti and meatballs is that we all associate it with Italian cuisine, while the dish itself is about as American as apple pie. Lots of cultures have their own version of the meatball, including the Italians, but a big plate of spaghetti piled high with saucy, ball shaped meat is a dish that was actually born stateside.
You won’t see it served in Italy, and if you do, it’s to accommodate tourists who won’t be satisfied until they’ve found it.
I love cooking, but even I appreciate a shortcut every now and then. A homemade pasta sauce really can’t be beat, but when I’m in a hurry I reach for a jar, and the most difficult step is unscrewing the lid. The trick is finding a sauce with good ingredients, which can be sort of tricky.
First off, most pasta sauces will inevitably contain added sugar, which I find off-putting and completely unnecessary- not to mention unhealthy.
Secondly, it’s pretty tough to find a sauce with a high quality oil as an ingredient. Like the majority of prepackaged foods, canola and soybean oil are the obvious choices for manufacturers due to their low price. But I choose to avoid these heavily processed oils, and so I have developed a way around that dilemma.
I buy organic, fat-free pasta sauce and then add in my own healthy fats, usually with a generous drizzle of olive oil.
Because I’m a lipid lover and I cringe when people still talk about trying to eat low-fat, I sort of feel embarrassed buying fat-free sauce. I’m always hoping the cashier isn’t silently judging me.
You start off by browning the wild boar and mushroom meatballs in a bit of olive oil, and finish them off in the oven. Once they are done, you’re going to have a pan full of delicious drippings, which you should never let go to waste. Instead, I like to stir it into my sauce, gratifyingly stripping it of its fat-free affirmations.
I piled these meatballs over a plate of spiralized zucchini noodles, and I added some sautéed swiss chard to the sauce.
Pasta sauce is the perfect vehicle for sneaking in extra vegetables, and I always perk up a jarred sauce with something green.
K had real deal pasta, but since he has been trimming back on the carbs lately, he had half his usual amount twirled around with some of the zoodles.
A heavy snowfall of parmesan sealed the deal on these wild boar and mushroom meatballs.
And that’s the kind of snow I can appreciate.
- 1 lb ground wild boar (or other ground pork)
- 1.5 cup finely chopped mushrooms
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano
- 1/2 tsp ground sage
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tbs almond flour
- tsp oregano
- 1 egg
- olive oil
- salt, pepper
- 4 medium zucchini
- 1 25 oz jar pasta sauce
- 2 cups Swiss Chard, stalks removed and chopped
- Preheat oven to 400
- Heat a cast iron skillet (or other oven safe pan) to medium high heat. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil along with minced garlic. Sautee for 15-30 seconds and add chopped mushrooms, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until mushrooms have softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add mushroom mixture to a mixing bowl along with ground pork, grated cheese, almond flour, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Using your hands, thoroughly mix ingredients until well combined. Divide mixture into 12 sections, forming each one into a ball.
- Return pan to stovetop and bring to medium high heat. Add a bit more oil, and meatballs, leaving a space between each one. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, and then flip, continuing to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer pan to oven, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
- While meatballs cook, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, spiralize zucchini, and chop swiss chard.
- Remove meatballs from oven and transfer to a plate. Return the pan to stovetop and bring to high heat. Add Swiss Chard and saute until wilted. Add pasta sauce to warm. Return meatballs to pan and allow to warm through for an additional few minutes.
- While sauce warms through, add zucchini noodles to boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes before draining.
- Divide noodles between four plates and add three meatballs to each plate. Cover with sauce and garnish with additional grated cheese.
*when flipping the meatballs, I find that using a spoon helps to keep the meatball intact. *I typically don't recommend cooking tomato dishes in cast iron pans, due to their acid. Since you're really just warming up the sauce here, I don't see it necessary to dirty another pan. *If you don't have almond flour, or you prefer to use breadcrumbs, you can substitute with 1/4 cup breadcrumbs.
Sometimes you just need a good meatball.
Don't let me do all the talking! Let me know what you think in the comments.