I am a huge fan of gratins for their variety of tastes and their simplicity to make. For summer I found a lighter way to replace the traditional recipe with béchamel sauce by a combination of vegetables, mozzarella and Meatball gratin which is clearly more enjoyable when the temperature outside is 100º F (35ºC).
This gratin is made with lamb meatballs, prepared with fresh herbs and Mediterranean spices that give a summery touch. You can also baste the meat with a littlle bit of lemon juice, or even better Pastis, a French aperitif drink very similar to the Greek Ouzo, which aniseed flavour goes well with baked meat. That why I call this meatball gratin “Greek style”.
To vary the menu, this meatball gratin can also be made with more traditional beef meatballs or veggie balls, and you can also add more vegetables like tomatoes and red or green peppers.
I like it because:
– It is a complete dish done with few ingredients, so it is easy to prepare.
– Making meatballs is much simpler than it seems to be, so the gratin can be prepared in no time.
– The mozzarella melts and bundles meatballs and vegetables together so that you feel various textures and flavors in each bite, which is delightful!
– Use fresh herbs for the meatballs for a stronger flavour. I usually have a small aromatic garden in my kitchen so don’t need to buy them, but if you have to, you can also use only one type of herb, the one you like better, in order to avoid waste.
– Cut the courgettes into very thin slices so that they cook faster, using a food processor or a slicer mandolin.
– When you assemble the gratin, put the meatballs aligned in the baking dish first, then insert between each meatball one of the other ingredients.
INGREDIENTES FOR A 11 in. TRAY (4 people):
- Olive oil
- 18 oz. minced lamb meat (500g)
- 1 egg (optional)
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp fresh coriander
- 1 tbsp fresh mint
- 1 tsp lemon juice or Pastis (optional)
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ras-el-hanout (optional)
- Salt, pepper, grated coriander seeds and any other seasoning that you ordinarily use
- 2 courgettes
- 7 oz. mozzarella (200g)
- Olive oil
Meatball gratin with courgettes & mozzarella recipe
- Preheat the oven to 355º F (180º C) and smear a little bit of olive oil into the gratin dish.
- Mix the meat, the egg, the chopped garlic, the herbs and the lemon juice or Pastis in a large bowl.
- Add all the spices and seasonings, and mix well again.
- Create meatballs the size of a walnut with your hands, and align them into the pan as you make them.
- Clean and cut the courgettes into thin slices, without removing the skin, using a slicer mandolin or a food processor.
- Cut the mozzarella into very fine pieces.
- Interweave courgettes and mozzarella slices between each meatball in the pan, forming lines, until there are none left.
- Sprinkle with a little olive oil and season with salt, pepper and grated coriander seeds again.
- Bake the gratin for 30-40 minutes, and serve it straight away, while it is very hot.