For Father's Day, I wanted to make a nice manly dinner. As our dad's aren't local, it was just the two of us, but that doesn't mean we couldn't get into the spirit of things! :)
After a successful first try with meatballs, I wanted to give them another go. I'd saved this recipe from the April issue of Food & Wine magazine because it struck me as interesting - 1/2 lb of bread? Ricotta - in a meatball? What? Now, you Experienced Meatballers might not have found that mix of ingredients captivating (I knew about breadcrumbs in meatloaf... but... this seemed different... I mean... HALF A POUND DIFFERENT!!!) :)
We'd had a nice, lazy afternoon of pooltime and video games before I thought to check on how long these meatballs were supposed to cook (2.5 hours), so at about 4:30 pm, I dashed into the kitchen to get started. Seriously, the prep took about 5 minutes. Maybe 7. I processed the bread, then blitzed the pancetta, herbs and spices, hand mixed it, balled it, and boom, into the oven. After the first 30 minutes, I added in the sauce and put the whole mess back into the oven for 2 hours.
I found the meatballs to be light and flavorful. Because I'd only lightly hand-mixed them, each ball had slightly different seasoning, and I thought that was pretty cool. We did think that the sauce was a little boring and already have plans to use different sauce on the leftovers. I def. recommend these, just sass up the sauce. (And I can't wait to use these in a sammich!!)
Pork-and-Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Food and Wine Magazine, April 2007
1/2 pound sliced white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch dice (4 cups)
1 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
3 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, minced
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup ricotta cheese (5 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Two 28-ounce cans peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons shredded basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, pulse the bread to coarse crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl and add the pork, pancetta, eggs, ricotta, parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Mix well. Shape into 24 meatballs, using about 3 rounded tablespoons of the mixture for each. Transfer the meatballs to an oiled medium roasting pan.
Roast the meatballs in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until firm and just beginning to brown. Using a spatula, loosen the meatballs from the bottom of the pan. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Lower the oven temperature to 325° and cook uncovered for about 2 hours, or until the sauce is very thick and the meatballs are very tender; turn the meatballs once or twice during cooking.
Transfer the meatballs and tomato sauce to a large platter. Garnish with the basil and Pecorino and serve hot.
MAKE AHEAD The cooked meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat and garnish just before serving.