I just love a good meatball, especially when it made the right way. When I was in my early twenties, I had the privilege to cook with my friends mom, Eileen Russo. Eileen was Irish American, but had been married to a Sicilian her entire life and so, her meatball skills were outstanding.
I remember the day when we prepared the meatballs together in my parent’s kitchen in Park City, Utah while on vacation. The trick to good Italian Style meatballs is to soak the bread in milk and add the right amount of seasoning in the meat.
Over the years, I have added a few extra ingredients in my meatballs, but the basics are pretty much the same. I use 85/15 grass fed ground beef, whole milk ricotta cheese and always freshly ground Parmesan along with a few herbs and spices.
These meatballs are moist and flavorful and are festive on Halloween night for spooky eye balls and spaghetti for worms. You can make them in a slow cooker and keep them on warm for little trick or treaters or party goers to eat during the evening. I like mine on Fusilli noodles, spaghetti squash or a soft roll, either way they are delicious. Thanks Mama Russo!
2 pounds grass fed 85/15 ground beef
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan + more for topping
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
4 cloves garlic, minced – divided
2 tablespoons dry Italian seasoning
3 cups Italian white bread
1 cup whole milk
1 – 28 ounce can San Marzano tomato puree
1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine, optional
1 white onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons sugar
pasta, any variety
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ricotta, parmesan, granulated garlic, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, Italian seasoning and egg. By hand, mix the ingredients to combine.
2. In another bowl, add the Italian bread chunks and pour the milk over the bread. Let the bread soak for a few minutes, until it is mostly absorbed.
3. Squeeze the bread with your hands to gently break apart any large chunks, most of the milk should be absorbed. Add the soft bread pieces to the meat mixture and work them gently into the meat.
4. Place a sheet pan with rack on the counter and start forming the meatballs. Each meatball should be about the size of a golf ball, makes about 28 balls.
5. Place the sheet pan in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. Make the sauce while the meatballs are baking.
6. Dice the onion and in a large pot over medium heat, add the onion, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the other 2 teaspoons of garlic to the pot. Saute the mixture for 2 minutes then, add the oregano and red pepper flakes and continue to saute for 2 more minutes.
7. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste and 1 teaspoon of salt, stir to combine all the ingredients. Continue to cook the sauce for 3 minutes then, add the sugar and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
8. Stir in the white wine and turn the heat to simmer and cook the sauce for 20 minutes.
9. Boil the pasta according to the package instructions, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta water.
10. Remove the meatballs from the oven.
11. Stir 1/2 cup pasta water into the sauce to thin slightly then, add the meatballs. You can add more water if the sauce is too thick.
12. Plate the pasta and spoon on some lovely meatballs. Sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese and Enjoy!