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Florentine Meatballs

If there’s anything that I’ve grown to appreciate in my lifetime it’s a good meatball. They aren’t that easy to come by! You want them tender, flavorful, but not fatty or dry. For these beef Florentine meatballs the spinach in the meat gives them a nice flavor and of course adds moisture and nutrients.

You can use ground turkey or chicken for this recipe instead if you prefer and it will also go quite well with the spinach.

The cooking term of “Florentine” is a French one, derived from the culinary influence of Catherine de Medici, the 16th century noblewoman from Florence. When she married King Henry II of France in 1547 she brought her love of Florentine dishes with her, including the novel (to France) vegetable of spinach. By some accounts she loved it so much she ate this veggie with every meal.

Catherine de Medici painting
Painting of Catherine de Medici by 16th century paintier Germain Le Mannier. Via: Tim Evanson/Flickr

Some say it was her cooks that heavily influenced French cooking into what it is today, but ever since then dishes with spinach have been known as “Florentine”.

In addition to the spinach these meatballs also have breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in the mix, each of which adds a lot of flavor and texture to the meatballs.

The sauce is a fairly simply one and if you have a lot of spinach to get rid if you can also add it to the sauce instead of only in the meatballs. With the classic chicken Florentine there’s spinach in a mornay sauce (a béchamel sauce with cheese), but in this variation we’ve got a tomato based sauce.

Florentine Meatballs

This is perfect when served with spaghetti and some extra parmesan on top. The final flourish is to add some freshly chopped parsley as well. For a tasty take on the classic Italian spaghetti and meatballs this Florentine version will have you thanking the Serpent Queen for her contributions to global cuisine.

Serves 4-6

30m prep time

37m cook time

560 calories

Allergens: Wheat, Milk, Gluten, Eggs

  • 1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided
  • 1 (26 oz) jar marinara sauce
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Squeeze excess moisture from spinach and pay with paper towel to dry off. Stir together breadcrumbs and milk. Allow to stand to 5 minutes.
  2. Combine spinach with beef, egg, parmesan, salt, pepper, breadcrumb mixture, and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Form into balls by hand. Arrange meatballs on large baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. When meatballs are done baking pour marinara sauce into a large, deep skillet or stockpot. Stir in remaining Italian seasoning. Place meatballs on top and heat over medium to medium low heat with lid on for 5-7 minutes to finish cooking meatballs. While sauce is cooking prepare pasta to package directions.
  4. Serve sauce on top of pasta with meatballs on top. Garnish with chopped parsley and add more parmesan if desired.

Recipe adapted from Love Grows Wild.

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