Hearty meatballs and homemade tomato sauce gain depth of flavor with a tipple of dark beer. Stout--with its soft hop character, round mouthfeel and pronounced malt backbone--is an excellent tool to have on hand for grounding a dish, both tempering the acidity of a bright tomato sauce and balancing the savory juiciness of good ground beef. I like to cook with a dry, Irish-style stout with black-olive notes, like the Boston Irish Stout from Harpoon Brewery. This isn't the time for high-octane imperial stouts or anything described as "coffee," "chocolate," or "oatmeal." Save those stouts for baking.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 small red onion, halved and divided
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup dry, Irish-style stout, divided
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for serving
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and bruised with the flat of a knife
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1. Thinly slice half of the red onion. Add to a medium-sized saucepan, along with the garlic and 1/4 cup olive oil. Heat over medium-high until the garlic and onion are fragrant and sizzling, 2 to 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until glossy and thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.
- 2. Pour 1/4 cup stout over breadcrumbs. Set aside. Grate the remaining onion half on the large holes of a box grater; squeeze out excess liquid. Add onion to a medium-sized bowl. Mix in beef, egg, cheese, parsley, reserved breadcrumbs and remaining salt. Form into equal-sized meatballs (about 2 tablespoons mixture each).
- 3. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
- 4. Add remaining stout to the bottom of the pan with the meatballs, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits. (You’re deglazing the bottom of the pan with stout, the basis of building the rest of your sauce.) Simmer until the stout starts to bubble and thicken, 2 to 4 minutes. Add reserved tomato sauce; turn meatballs to coat. Gently simmer meatballs and sauce together over medium-low heat until the meatballs are tender and the sauce tastes rich and meaty. Serve with extra chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
- Photo credit: H.B. Wilcox Photography