January 20, 2020 Makes 20-24 Meatballs
My brother Chef Francesco came up with "my one and only meatball" recipe a few years ago. He researched, tested, and tweaked until he came up with what in my opinion, is the most tender and flavorful meatball in town. These are the meatballs we eat every Christmas together as a family and it has become a favorite tradition of mine. They are perfectly balanced with an unctuous, almost "umami'ness" from the Parmigiano and Pecorino cheese. Now, this is not a shout it from the rooftop kind of meatball. The flavors are subtle and sadly, I think subtle is often underrated. I feel they are perfect as is but you can add herbs such as thyme or basil or sauté a finely chopped garlic clove or a bit of chopped onion in some olive oil, let cool and add to the mix.
I usually make Marcella's Hazan's Tomato Sauce and poach the meatballs in the sauce at a very low simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. You could also brown the balls first and then cook them in your favorite sauce, whichever way you'd like. Whatever you do, make sure to have a crusty loaf of good bread for the next day. Meatball sandwiches, am I right?
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for the pasta
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for the pasta
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 pound ground beef (80/20, which means 80% lean beef with 20% fat)
1 pound ground pork
1 pound spaghetti
Handful of torn, fresh basil leaves
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce, double recipe
I always make a double batch of Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce for this recipe. I do this so that there's enough sauce to poach the meatballs in. Also, I am usually just cooking for two people so I cook about 8 of the meatballs and freeze the rest along with the leftover tomato sauce.
Whisk the eggs and milk in medium bowl until well incorporated. In a separate bowl, toss together the two cheeses, breadcrumbs, and salt Then, add the wet mixture to the dry and stir well. In a large bowl mix this together with the beef and pork. Try to do this quickly as you don't want to overwork the meat, or have the heat from your hands melt the fat in the meat. This makes for a very tender ball. YES!
Using a blue ice cream scoop (2 ounces), or whatever size you prefer, scoop all of the meatball mixture onto a cookie sheet. I would use a scoop if you have one or weigh each ball so that they are uniform in size. They will cook more evenly. Roll the balls into well, balls, or leave them as is.
Start your sauce. Add some (I used 8) of the meatballs to the tomatoes, onion, and butter. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce over very low heat, for about 45 minutes. Stir from time to time.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and add enough salt so that it tastes like seawater. Taste it and make sure there is enough salt. No one likes bland pasta. When it comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. I always check it a few minutes shy of that suggestion. I really like my pasta al dente. Like, REALLY.
Scoop a few ladlefuls of the sauce into a large bowl big enough to hold the pasta and meatballs. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the bowl with the sauce. Toss a few times and top with grated cheese and fresh basil. Add the meatballs and serve.