Splendid Meatballs

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Modified from the recipe at The Splendid Table by Lynn Rosetto Casper

Lynn says:

Cook to Cook: Just remember, meatballs beg for improvisation with vegetables, all kinds of breads, cheeses, and leftovers. I like Mario Batali’s observation, “The mistake people make with meatballs is they think they’re all about meat.” Here is where to begin.

Note: You could have the sauce done two days ahead. Making the meatballs a day ahead not only releases you from last minute angst, it works magic on how flavors are exchanged between the meat and sauce.

  • Good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium to large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (3 slices of whole grain bread, crumbed in the food processor)
  • 1/3 cup red or white wine
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half
  • 3 tightly-packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves, or 1 heaping tablespoon dry basil (omit for Sean)
  • 2 to 3 tight-packed tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves (omit for Sean)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 generous tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds ground beef chuck (85% lean)
  • 1 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or a mix of Parmigiano and Pecorino Toscano or good quality Pecorino Romano, or Grana Padano, or aged Asiago
  • A Simple Tomato Sauce
  • 1 pound imported Italian spaghetti (De Cecco, Geraldo di Nola, Rusticella, Latini), cooked al dente and drained

1. Lightly film the bottom of a 10-inch skillet with olive oil and set over medium high heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and saute, stirring often, until the onion is dark golden brown (about 5 minutes). Add the wine and pressed garlic and cook down.  Let cool a bit.

2. In a food processor mince together the basil (if using dry basil, just add it to the bowl), parsley and cooked onion/garlic mixture with the egg yolk and tomato paste. Scrape into a large bowl. Blend in the beef and cheese with a spoon or your clean hands until everything is well mixed. Chill the mixture for an hour or so.

3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Oil a shallow baking pan. Have the tomato sauce ready to be warmed up to finish cooking the meatballs.

4. Take the meatball mixture out of the fridge. Roll the meat into small balls about 1 1/2-inches in diameter and put them on the baking pan, 1 inch or more apart. Roast them about 10 minutes, or until they are browned. You are not cooking them through, you’re just browning them.

5. Remove the pan from the oven. Let the meatballs cool for 15 to 20 minutes while you bring the tomato sauce to a slow simmer. Use a pancake turner to slip under the fragile meatballs and lift them into the sauce. Cook them at a very gentle simmer about 10 to 15 minutes, or until an instant reading thermometer inserted in the center of a meatball reads 160°F.

6. Carefully transfer the sauce and meatballs to a storage container and refrigerate overnight.

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Published in: on February 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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