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This recipe is a bit of a project, but worth it.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, or panko style
- 1/4 cup water
- Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic smashed and finely chopped
- Kosher salt
- 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, packed in juice
- 1 28 oz can tomato puree
- optional 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Make the tomato sauce: Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is totally softened and translucent (without letting it brown), 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring until it has turned a deeper brick-red color, tinting the oil and onions a fiery orange color, about 2 minutes. Crush the whole tomatoes by hand and add them (including the juice) and the tomato purée to the pot, stirring to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Season with salt and pepper and add red pepper flakes, if using. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato sauce has thickened and flavors have come together, 20 to 30 minutes.
Make the meatballs: Coat a large saute pan with olive oil, add the onions and bring to a medium-high heat. Season the onions generously with salt and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. The onions should be very soft and aromatic but have no color. Add the garlic and the crushed red pepper and saute for another 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl combine the meats, eggs, parmigiano, parsley and bread crumbs. It works well to squish the mixture with your hands. Add the onion mixture and season generously with salt and squish some more. Add the water and do 1 final really good squish. The mixture should be quite wet. Season with salt.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Shape the meat into desired size. Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake them in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through. If using right away, add them to your big pot of tomato sauce. If not using right away, they can be frozen for later use.