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Roasted Meatballs in Tomato-Basil Sauce

Roasted Meatballs in Tomato-Basil Sauce


  • 1 cup (a couple handfuls) fresh breadcrumbs or 1/2 cup dried

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk

  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed ground meat (equal parts beef, pork and veal)

  • 1/8 pound pancetta, finely chopped

  • 1/3 cup each grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and grated Pecorino Romano, divided, plus more for passing

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 1 egg

  • 3 tablespoons (a handful) flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

  • 5 cloves garlic, 3 finely chopped or grated and 2 crushed

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon (about 1/2 palmful) dried onion flakes

  • 1 teaspoon (about 1/3 palmful) dried oregano

  • 3/4 teaspoon (a scant 1/3 palmful) fennel pollen or seeds, crushed by hand

  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 fat pinches) crushed red pepper

  • Salt and pepper

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1/2 cup red wine

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes

  • 1/3 cup (a handful) fresh basil leaves, torn

  • Crusty bread, for mopping


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

Preheat a large, cast-iron skillet over medium-high. In a large mixing bowl, moisten the breadcrumbs with milk. Add the ground meats, pancetta, 1/3 cup of each cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil ( 2 turns of the bowl) the egg, parsley, chopped garlic, onion flakes, oregano, fennel pollen or seeds and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper, and gently mix until fully combined. Roll into 2- to 2 1/2-inch meatballs and drizzle with a little more olive oil.  

Add the remaining 2 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet, two turns of the pan and melt in the butter. Add crushed garlic and stir until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring often, until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and the tomatoes with their juices, crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pan. Season with salt then wilt in basil. Set the meatballs in the sauce (Do not cover—the tops should be exposed). Place the skillet in the oven and roast until the meat is just cooked through and tops are browned.  

Serve the meatballs from the skillet with crusty bread for mopping up the sauce and extra cheese for topping.