Makes 24 portions with 4 meatballs in each
Meatball size 35g makes a total of 64 meatballs

for the meat balls
1500g very fine veal and pork mince
150g hot cacciatore, skin removed and very finely chopped
180g p/w brown onion, very finely chopped
100g EVO
180g Japanese breadcrumbs [Panko]
30g Maldon
5g black pepper, freshly and coarsely ground
2g dry Greek oregano[1]
1 nutmeg, finely grated
20g finely chopped curly parsley
3 extra large eggs

for the fennel
120g full back bacon, rind removed and finely sliced
100g EVO
600g prepared weight fennel, shaved on a mandolin…plus some of the frond finely chopped[2]
10g Maldon
2g black pepper, freshly and coarsely ground

for the Béchamel
2L full cream milk
100g p/w red onion, cut into quarters
4 whole cloves
5g whole white pepper
1 bay leaf
50g parsley stalks

300g unsalted butter
200g plain flour
15g Maldon
3g black pepper, freshly and coarsely ground
100g pickling liquid[3]
200g coarsely grated mozzarella cheese

other ingredients
approximately 100g unsalted butter, very soft
Japanese breadcrumbs
Parmesan Reggiano, fine

for the meat balls
Fry the onion and cacciatore in the EVO just long enough to lightly colour the onion. Mix everything to the line together. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk them together add to the mix and wearing food service gloves mix well. Refrigerate for at least one hour then, using a 40mm scoop shape the meatballs. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

for the fennel
Sautéthe bacon in the EVO just long enough to render a little of the fat. Add all of the remaining ingredients and toss over just long enough to take the rawness from the fennel but keep plenty of texture.

for the Béchamel
Put everything to the line into a saucepan and on low heat bring to the boil. Immediately turn off the heat and set a timer for 30 minutes. When the timer goes, strain, pressing hard against the onion to get all of the juices and when you are ready to finish the béchamel read heat the infused milk.

Put the butter into a ceramic wok and place it on medium heat. When the butter foams add the flour, salt and pepper and stir with a whisk to cook out the flour but do not allow it to colour.

This is really important because unless the four roux is cooked out properly and the béchamel allowed to boil once the liquid has been added the béchamel will always have a floury back taste.

Add the milk a little at a time, then the pickling liquid, boil gently constantly stirring for two to three minutes. Add the mozzarella, stir through and remove the béchamel from the heat.

to assemble and serve
for individual portions
Butter 16 ramekins and divide the fennel between them. Add four meatballs to each ramekin and then blanket the meatballs with béchamel. Scatter a small amount of Japanese breadcrumbs over the top and then some of the parmesan[4].

These individual portions freeze really well…thawed overnight in the fridge, 30 second on high in micro and 10 minutes @ 180°C in a pre-heated oven.

for large single dish for buffet style service
Butter a wide shallow oven proof serving dish, deep enough to do two layers of meatballs. Put half of the fennel on the bottom, then a layer of meatballs and blanket them with béchamel. Repeat the process then scatter a small amount of Japanese breadcrumbs over the top and then some of the parmesan.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. Because the meatballs are raw, the dish should be cooked within 24 hours of being prepared.

Take the dish out of the fridge three hours before you want to serve it.
pre-heat oven to 180°C
Bake for 45 – 50 minutes.

[1]We prefer the Greek bunch oregano, where you make a small slit in the top of the bag and shake the dried oregano out a little at a time as you need it and store it sitting upright

[2]Approximately 2 large fennel

[3]This can be saved from cornichons, gherkins anything that is a little bit vinegary or you can make a batch of pickling liquid recipe click here

[4]We have an attachment for our Magimix food processor that grates the parmesan finely but does not powder it. This makes a nice texture on top of the serve but is not essential.