Lamb and Butternut Squash Meatballs With Pistachio Pesto
In Italy, ground lamb meat is not as common as ground beef or pork, so you have to specially order it from your butcher. I really enjoyed making meatballs with it, in place of more traditional ground beef.
These butternut squash and lamb meatballs have a distinctive flavor; they are moist and sweet, with a warm orange hue. The roasted squash adds moisture and flavor, but if you don’t have butternut squash, two medium potatoes, boiled and riced, would work, too.
I like to serve these meatballs with a nut pesto, where pistachios and pine nuts team up with mint, a natural complement to lamb meat. You can also prepare a salad of shredded cabbage and season it with extra virgin olive oil, salt, black pepper, and a squeeze of orange juice. Better still, toss a few orange segments into the salad, too.
For the meatballs:
- 1 3/4 pound butternut squash
- 1 pound ground lamb shoulder
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- A few grinds of black pepper
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
For the pesto:
- 1/4 cup pistachios
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 6 sprigs fresh mint
- Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 390 degrees F.
Slice the butternut squash into thin slices and arrange them onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the slices with extra virgin olive oil, then season with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until soft and caramelized on the edges.
Remove the squash from the oven, let it cool for about 5 minutes, then blend into a thick paste.
Scrape the butternut squash paste into a bowl and add the ground lamb shoulder and finely chopped onion. Season with salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Shape the meatballs into clementine-sized balls with the help of an ice-cream scoop: you’ll get meatballs of the same size, and the process will be a lot less messy.
Collect the meatballs in a dish dusted with breadcrumbs and shake the dish to coat the meatballs with the breadcrumbs.
Arrange the meatballs on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Cook in the hot oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden.
In the meantime, prepare the pesto. In a food processor, combine pistachios, pine nuts, and mint leaves together. Stream in the olive oil until you get a thick and quite smooth pesto. Add salt to taste.
Serve the meatballs with the pistachio pesto and a salad of shredded cabbage seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and freshly squeezed orange juice.