Meatballs with Red-Wine Tomato Sauce


  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • About 2 ounces prosciutto or pancetta, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta, drained
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • A handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1/4 cup), plus more to pass at the table
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed (about 1/3 palmful)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (about 1/3 palmful)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram leaves (about 1/3 palmful), lightly crushed
  • About 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • About 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • A fat drizzle plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 4 cloves garlic, 2 grated, 2 sliced
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red dry wine
  • 1/2 cup beef or veal stock
  • 2 cups passata (Italian tomato puree) or tomato sauce
  • Warm crusty Italian bread


Position a rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 475°F degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the meats; season with salt and pepper. Add the ricotta, parsley, one quarter cup grated cheese, the egg, spices, a fat drizzle of EVOO and the grated garlic. Stir in the moistened breadcrumbs; mix to combine. Divide the mixture into four equal portions; divide each portion into thirds and roll each into a large meatball, to make twelve meatballs. Bake on a rimmed nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet until just cooked through and slightly crispy, 16-18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO over medium-high. Add the sliced garlic and grated onion, season and stir until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the tomato paste; stir one minute more. Add the wine; simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and passata then reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the meatballs, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve with sauce, cheese and bread for mopping.