The main content
Rachael's Bucatini with Meatball Dumplings

Rachael's Bucatini with Meatball Dumplings


For the meatballs:

  • ¼ pound prosciutto cotto

  • 1 pound ground beef (80% lean)

  • ½ pound ground veal

  • ½ pound ground pork

  • Salt and pepper

  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated or minced

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs or crumbled stale bread

  • ½ cup whole milk or half-and-half

  • ½ cup ricotta cheese

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • About ½ cup grated Pecorino cheese

  • About ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • A little freshly grated nutmeg, about ⅛ teaspoon

  • A handful parsley, finely chopped

  • A few sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped

  • About 1 teaspoon fennel seeds or fennel pollen, ⅓ palmful

  • About 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

For the sauce:

  • About 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped or thinly sliced

  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved

  • One 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes DOP San Marzano

  • One 24-ounce jar tomato passata or tomato puree, 3 cups

  • About 1 cup stock, beef or chicken or use a combination of both

  • Salt

  • A scant teaspoon sugar

  • A handful basil leaves, torn

To serve:

  • Salt

  • 1-1 ½ pounds bucatini, (4-6 portions)

  • 2-3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 cup grated cheese, Pecorino or parm or in combination


For the meatballs, rough chop the cotto and finely chop in a food processor. Place ground ham and ground raw meats in a large bowl, make a well, and season the meats with salt and pepper. Combine garlic, breadcrumbs and milk in a small bowl, and let it absorb into breadcrumbs. Add ricotta and egg to the well, cheese, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary, fennel and EVOO. Add breadcrumbs to well and mix until just combined. Roll meat into 2-2 ¼-inch balls and place on parchment-lined tray.

For the sauce, place a large Dutch oven over medium heat with EVOO and melt butter into oil. Add garlic and onion, heat to infuse the garlic into oil and butter, then add the tomatoes, passata, stock, salt, sugar and basil. Simmer 30 minutes, then add the meatball dumplings to the bubbling sauce, reduce heat to low simmer and cook partially covered 1-1 ½ hours, gently stirring occasionally.

To serve, bring water to a boil, season with salt and cook pasta 1 minute less than package directions. Reserve about ¾ cup starchy water before draining. Drain pasta and toss with butter, a little more than half the red sauce, grated cheese and starchy water as needed to keep the pasta saucy, evenly coated, and the sauce emulsified. Arrange meatballs on a platter or bowls of bucatini. Pass extra sauce and cheese at table.