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Meatballs with Olives

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Serves: 4
250g / 9 oz shallots, peeled
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
450g / 1 lb minced beef steak
2 tbsp fresh white or wholemeal breadcrumbs
3 tbsp freshly chopped basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp ready-made pesto sauce
5 tbsp mascarpone cheese
50g / 2 oz pitted black olives, halved
275g / 10 oz thick pasta noodles, e.g. tagliatelle
freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Chop 2 of the shallots finely and place in a bowl with the garlic, beef, breadcrumbs, basil and seasoning to taste. With damp hands, bring the mixture together and shape into small balls about the size of an apricot.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the meatballs for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned and the beef is tender. Remove and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.

Slice the remaining shallots, add to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Blend the pesto and mascarpone together, then stir into the pan with the olives. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and return the meatballs to the pan. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the meatballs are cooked thoroughly.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the noodles for 8-10 minutes, or "al dente". Drain the noodles, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquor. Return the noodles to the pan with the reserved cooking liquor and pour in the sauce. Stir the noodles, then sprinkle with chopped parsley. Garnish with a few sprigs of parsley and serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese.

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