Peperonata Pork Gratin

Yet another adaptation of an article in the wonderful Cuisine magazine, this time from issue number 175 on page 33, and thanks again to the very talented Ginny Grant. I admit that there do seem to be a lot of moving parts, and 3 lists of ingredients is a bit over the top, but it is well worth the effort, and Peperonata is invaluable for so many things.

Ingredients 1: Meat mix.

1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs.

250g pork mince.

¼ cup fennel, chopped.

1 medium onion, chopped.

Salt to taste.

Freshly ground black pepper.

1 egg, lightly beaten.

Ingredients 2: Peperonata.

 ½ cup olive oil.

 1 onion, peeled, sliced.

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped.

2 large red capsicums, sliced.

 3 large, very red tomatoes, cored and chopped.

2 tsp caper paste.

2 tsp balsamic vinegar.

3 anchovy fillets, chopped.

Salt and pepper.

Ingredients 3: Gratin.
2 tblsp olive oil.
2 cups Peperonata.

1 400g can cannellini beans, drained.
1 cup fresh basil, chopped.
¼ cup tomato paste.
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs.
1 cup grated cheese [parmesan or pecorino].

Mix the breadcrumbs, meat, onion, fennel, salt, pepper and egg together in a bowl. When well mixed, knead using wet hands for a couple of minutes and form into a large ball. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 2-3 hours.

To prepare the Peperonata, heat ½ cup olive oil in a sauté pan over a hot flame. Sauté the onion until it is soft and broken up into strings. Add the garlic and continue to stir fry until beginning to turn golden. Add the capsicum, tomato, capers, anchovy, vinegar and the salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes, stirring well, until reduced to a thick sauce. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a little while and pour into containers; this should yield about 4 cups, of which you will need 2. Freeze the other 2 cups for another time; it is an excellent base for a pasta, or a topping for a pizza.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Rub a little oil onto a metal baking tray. Using wet hands, form the meat mix into balls; your mixture should yield 20-24. Place the meatballs on the oiled tray and bake for 40 minutes. When done, carefully remove and arrange in an au gratin dish. In a saucepan, gently heat 2 cups of Peperonata and stir in the beans, basil and tomato paste. When bubbling, pour the mixture over the meatballs. Combine the breadcrumbs and grated cheese together and sprinkle over the Peperonata mixture.

The dish is now ready for final cooking. You can cover it with a towel for finishing later, or you may want to get on with the final cooking immediately. If the latter, heat the oven to 200°C and bake the au gratin for 30 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Serve with a green salad on the side.

Serves: 2.

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