Meatballs Emilia-Romagna with Pasta Sheets

By • August 12, 2010 • 106 Comments

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Author Notes: Although I have never been, I have been fascinated with this region of Italy ever since I first tasted tagliatelle with a game ragu. I like the richness of the food and yet it never seems overly heavy and filling. I think it has to do with the restraint and balance of the rich and decadent foods they use. I chose to use ground short ribs for the base of the meatball for several reasons. One they stay moist because of the fat content, two I also caramelize the meatballs because that is one of the great things about short ribs is how rich they become after browning. I also grate the onion and garlic on a micro plane so it permeates the bread crumb and milk panade and then the entire meatball. If you make these meatballs hours ahead of time and put them in the fridge when you go to roll them they will seem like they are not going to bind together. As you work them in your hands the heat of your hands will soften the fat and the will come together nicely. - thirschfeldthirschfeld

Food52 Review: This recipe is a marathon, but you’ll have a runner’s high by the time you brown the meatballs and start smelling the goodness to come. Do all your prep work first because once that’s done, the recipe is a snap. You mix and shape the meatballs -- which are made with succulent ground short rib meat -- and after browning them in a pan, you use the pan drippings as the base for a rich Bolognese-like sauce. The pasta sheets are a great touch – a way to make impromptu, loosely-formed lasagna without all the counting of layers and baking. Thirschfeld really channeled his inner nonna on this one. – A&MThe Editors

Serves 4, with enough meatball mix to test for seasoning

  • 1 1/2 pounds short rib meat, sinew removed and ground, you butcher can do this for you too.
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic, grated on a micro plane
  • 1 tablespoon yellow onion, grated on a micro plane
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup parmesan reggiano, grated
  • 1 egg
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow onion, small dice
  • 3/4 cup carrots, small dice
  • 3/4 cup celery, small dice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 thin slices of prosciutto, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock or chicken stock
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, about 6 inches long
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons double concentrate tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 each, 12 inch long fresh pasta sheets, or DeCecco lasagna sheets
  1. Combine the bread crumbs, milk, grated garlic and grated onions in a bowl and mix to combine. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Combine the beef, egg, parmesan and parsley with the bread crumb mixture and mix very well. ( I used the paddle attachment on my mixer.) Season with a half a teaspoon of salt and a few turns of fresh ground pepper. Make a walnut sized meatball. Place a small saute pan over medium heat. Add some oil and saute the meatball until it is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Keep in mind the garlic and onion will grow stronger as the mix sets so you are really only tasting for salt. Place them in the fridge while you cut you veggies.
  2. Roll the meatballs making them golf ball size. I used a #20 scoop.Heat a large 14 inch non stick skillet over medium high heat. These meatballs start out very tender but firm up as the fat is rendered. Add a couple of glugs of olive oil and gently add the meatballs and brown them on all sides. Remove them to a sheet tray with sides when they are finished browning.
  3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  4. Empty out the grease and put the pan back on the heat. Add a glug or two of olive oil and add the prosciutto. Once the prosciutto is crisp add the chopped onions, carrots, and celery. Saute until they begin to soften but don't brown. Add the garlic.
  5. Once you smell the garlic add the wine, tomato paste and the bay leaves. Reduce the wine to a glaze and then add the stock and rosemary sprig. Reduce the liquid by half. Add the milk and cream. Let it come to a boil and then then place the pan into the oven.
  6. Slide the meatballs into the oven too. Set a timer for 16 minutes.
  7. About 4 minutes before the timer goes off drop the noodles into the pot of boiling water and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.(if you are not using fresh pasta start to cook it according to the time on the box and plan to have it done at the same time as the ragu) Remove the pasta and let it drain. Remove the sauce and meatballs from the oven. Remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprig from the sauce. The sauce should not be thick but should be reduced.
  8. To plate hold the end of a noodle with a clean towel. Place about a tablespoon of sauce between each layer as you bunch it on the plate. Place three meatballs on top drizzle with some ragu and grate more cheese over the top and serve.
Jump to Comments (106)

Comments (106) Questions (4)

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Wrong_apple

5 months ago sevenfaces

This was a taste sensation! (Though my meatballs must have been too big because the layered sheet effect was very much a disaster for me.) Texturally, without the chunkiness of any tomatoes, the sauce was something different that I think I liked. Flavour wise, spot on. Preparation was not even as marathon-like as suggested. Yay!

Jocelyn_2006

about 1 year ago jocelyng

This is absolutely fantastic. That is all.

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over 1 year ago tREX

I really loved these meatballs. The sauce was awesome too, however, I did take a bit of liberty to appease my red sauce loving family and added one can of crushed tomatoes before putting it in the oven. It has a lovely depth of flavor and a more traditional look. Next time, I'll follow to the letter, but this is a definite crowd pleaser. Also, I doubled everything for a larger family party w/out any issues.

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almost 2 years ago The Fiery Epicurean

I have successfully made several of the dishes Thirschfeld has published on Food52 and have been pleased with his recipes, except for this one. I wasn't completely satisfied with the results, thought something was lacking. I followed the directions to a T and completed all my prep before I actually began cooking (this is a must for this recipe to be successful). In the ingredient list it states tomato paste but then in the directions it refers to tomato sauce and I was like what, I didn't buy sauce! So I was confused there, but went ahead and used tomato paste. I think the meatballs could use a little more spice as they are just your basic meatball that uses short rib meat instead of ground chuck. And lastly, I think the biggest problem I had was with the sauce. Where's the tomatoes? The sauce resembled muddy thicken water because of the wine and the beef broth and it didn't look that appealing to the eye. Sorry to be so harsh, but I was excepting more.

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almost 2 years ago thirschfeld

Not harsh at all Fiery. I have always maintained and will continue too that food is best tailored to your own likes and wants. That said the sauce is a very traditional Emilia-Romagna ragu as opposed to the typical, albeit delicous, Italian American tomato sauce. It also sounds like you might have needed to reduce the sauce more but anyway, sorry it didn't work for you I have always enjoyed it and simply posted it in hopes others would too.

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about 2 years ago Dougin

A newbie to 52 and this is the first recipe I've made from this site. This was unbelievably amazing!!!!! Worth every minute it took to create one of the best dishes I've ever ate!!!! Thank you so much for this recipe. I look forward to trying your other recipes.

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over 2 years ago BavarianCook

This is amazing! I came home today with good quality ground beef intending to make meatballs and then found this recipe here. So although my meat was different, the remaining ingredients were the same and it was delicious. Mille grazie!

Strawb

almost 3 years ago letsfeast

Made this last week and it was absolutely delicious! The meatballs were so tender and flavourful and the sauce really rustic .. fantastic.

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about 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

We made this in class on Thursday with shortribs, but skipped the meatball step. We served it over handmade pasta sheets - it was the students' first experience with handcutting pasta. To say it was all heavenly doesn't begin to do it justice. It was downright divine.

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over 3 years ago ellent124

Sounds lovely--we always use romano in meatballs--like Grandma did--parm just isn't right. Have you tried that? Do you think the romano is too much with the rich short rib meat? Plan to try when my kids are home on a visit.

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over 3 years ago bugbitten

I drove through Emilia-Romania quite a while (twenty years) ago. Easy to go back: Milano, rent-a-car, Modena, Parma, Bologna, then Ferrara, which has the nicest hotel in the region. For some reason, the best food in Italy is here. Best ham outside of Barcelona. Sante!

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over 3 years ago casa-giardino

Personally, I would omit the cream and the tomato paste.

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almost 4 years ago tomo'

Wonderful - amazing worth the work! Thank you!

Mcs

about 4 years ago mcs3000

Yes, please!

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about 4 years ago mariaraynal

I've been meaning to comment on this recipe for months...it sounds utterly heavenly and is on my to-make list.

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about 4 years ago Victoria Carr

Microplane makes a grater called medium ribbon grater. It grates in both directions so is excellent when you want to grate onions. I always use it when I make meatballs as I don't want any perceptible pieces in them.

I haven't made this yet, but it's printed out to make over this long Columbus Day Weekend.

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about 4 years ago beckycarpenter

A little confused here...first make the meatballs (walnuts) and saute them and then RE-make them (golf balls) and cook them again?
(Forgive my cluelessness - I'm the graphic designer for the site and not really a cook.)

Can't wait for this wonderful-sounding meal!

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about 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

I think that's to test the meat mixture for seasoning :)

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about 4 years ago thirschfeld

yes, LND is correct the walnut size piece is to cook and taste, before you make all of them, so you can see if you want to add more salt or not. When you make all the meatballs you want to make them golfball size. Which in reality, I guess it depends on whether that walnut is a green walnut or a walnut with just the shell. Sorry. You want to cook a small amount and then taste it to see if you need more seasoning. Sorry for the confusion and it is a great question.

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about 4 years ago katydids

Outrageous! YUMMERS!

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over 4 years ago Chelseabell

These look great!

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

I made this again yesterday while I was really into my sport cooking mode. ( I was also making lunch for 8.) I made everything and then refrigerated. An hour before dinner I put the sauce in a dutch oven and then the meatballs and left it in a 250 oven until dinner. The braised meatballs in sauce over pasta sheets were fabulous...without running a marathon!

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

This dish I hope will be remembered as Mr. T's food52 legacy. It is so cool, and so smart, and at the same time true to the source. Another bravo!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks dymnyno.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

pierino thanks, I would take that legacy but I also hope I have a few more in me.

Steve_dunn02

over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Just checking back into things here after a summer of travel, and happy to see that you haven't lost your touch. This dish looks incredible, Tom....congrats on your win! - S

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks Oui, I have been enjoying your blog, I am a big fan of Guiness too, but we have been missing you recipes around here. Hope you had great travels.

Newliztoqueicon-2

over 4 years ago Lizthechef

too tired to check, but September issue of "BA" features a short rib lasagne that doesn't touch yours - probably way ahead of me.

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

Just finished making this for dinner....aroma and flavors are fabulous!!

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over 4 years ago seisinger

Made this on Wednesday night for dinner with a friend. Utterly delicious!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

I am so glad you liked it.

Bmp_9375

over 4 years ago Sunchowder

Recipe is absoutely gorgeous, congrats on your win Thirschfeld!

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over 4 years ago lapadia

Congratulations thirschfeld, have a blast at the "Meatball Madness" Festival...Mangia!

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over 4 years ago KelseyTheNaptimeChef

Congratulations Tom, this is a fabulous recipe!

Me

over 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I've been out all day and just seeing this now. Major congratulations on another wonderful recipe! Looking forward to seeing and trying many more!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks ChezSuzanne and I am not done yet.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks you everyone for all your very wonderful comments and thanks to all those that voted.

Bike2

over 4 years ago Sagegreen

Congrats! The other recipe is really lovely, too. But I fell in love with this one.

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

over 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Mr. Hirschfeld, I'm thrilled for you! That prize is so well-deserved. Keep your recipes coming, please! ;o)

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over 4 years ago gingerroot

Congratulations!!

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over 4 years ago Midge

Yay thirschfeld!

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over 4 years ago adamnsvetcooking

Congratulations :)

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over 4 years ago meredithhimelfarb

So glad to see this won!! I've been raving about it all week!

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over 4 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congratulations!

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

Bravo T, great job. You deserved the win.

Newliztoqueicon-2

over 4 years ago Lizthechef

Bravo, Tom!

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over 4 years ago MrsWheelbarrow

Cathy is a trusted source on Pickling/Preserving.

YAY!

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

Congratulations....no surprise!

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over 4 years ago Victoria Carr

I haven't made this yet, but it looks wonderful, and I definitely plan to make it soon.

With regard to the tip on grating the onion and garlic with a Microplane, I have the model that's called the Medium Ribbon Microplane. It's the short, squatty model, not the long one. It works in BOTH directions, and is fabulous for grating onions and garlic. I specifically use it when I make my meatballs because I don't want little pieces of onion perceptible in the dish.

Zester_003

over 4 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

First of all I'm voting for this recipe, I really like the clever use of the pasta sheets to mimic lasagne but with polpette instead. Very smart. I do have a quibble in that real butchers are pretty damn hard to find these days---although there is something of a renaissance underway, it's going to take years. All that most Americans can expect is some guy who can work a band saw on primal cuts in the back of the supermarket meat department. Learning to separate and grind meats yourself (especially a cut like short ribs) is a useful skill to have and the tools aren't that expensive. For the pasta sheets, if you are not making them by hand, Rustichella d'Abruzzo is the premier brand imported from Italy.

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over 4 years ago MrsWheelbarrow

Cathy is a trusted source on Pickling/Preserving.

I just love this recipe. I've put in an order for short ribs with my favorite farmer - I'm going to make at least a double recipe. This simply must be in the freezer for those snowy days. Delicious! Thanks, Tom!

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over 4 years ago Fpleonard

Looks terrific Tom. Nice job

Monkeys

over 4 years ago monkeymom

Congrats thirschfeld!!! Your recipes are really inspiring. Hope you make it to meatball madness!

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over 4 years ago omarston

This is really unique. I love your creativity and courage to try new things.

Massimo's_deck_reflection_10_27_13

over 4 years ago lapadia

Your recipe brought you and Editors’ Pick and a place in the finals – Congratulations thirschfeld! Maybe someday soon you will make a trip to the region of Northern Italy -Emilia Romagna too?

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over 4 years ago lapadia

"an Editors' Pick"...oops!

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over 4 years ago KelseyTheNaptimeChef

This looks amazing!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks Kelsey

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over 4 years ago Annelle

Can't wait to make this! I can already almost smell/taste it! Thank you for a wonderful recipe!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks dymnyno. I guess I will shut-up about the poison ivy in my lavender and just count myself lucky.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

That should say thanks Annelle.

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over 4 years ago cheese1227

Thought this might be standing among the last two! Congrats. I've been lucky enough to get to Bologna a half dozen times and this looks just about right!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks cheese1227

Me

over 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Congratulations Tom!!!! The use of short ribs in the meatballs is absolutely an inspired idea. I've never been a huge meatball girl, but this recipe would change my mind, I can tell. Really wonderful.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks ChezSuzanne

Winnie100

over 4 years ago WinnieAb

I really can't wait to make these...they look over the top amazing!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Made a third batch of lacto pickles, this time with tarragon, garlic, black peppercorns and a cayenne pepper. Just so you know I have tried, in the past three other recipes, one being Michael Ruhlmans, and yours is the first to really work well. Thanks

Winnie100

over 4 years ago WinnieAb

You're welcome. My favorites so far this summer have been pickled whole cukes with garlic and habaneros, and I did add a grape leaf. Super spicy and crunchy.

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

over 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

What an amazing recipe. Mr Hirschfeld, we are so fortunate that you are among us!! Love this. So glad it's a finalist. ;o)

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks AJ. It is just a fun and great place to be.

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

Congratulations! This is a slam-dunk winner!! Rattlesnake still happy in my lavender!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks dymnyno. I guess I will shut-up about the poison ivy in my lavender and just count myself lucky.

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over 4 years ago meredithhimelfarb

Using short rib = awesomeness. You've outdone yourself, sir.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thank you ICP that means a lot.

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over 4 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Tom, i'm so happy you're a finalist for this recipe--it sounds so good! (from an infrequent meat eater, that's high praise.)

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

you know drbabs I started this thing I call three nights a week where we as a family don't eat meat for dinner. Just doing it to see if we appreciate meat more instead of expecting it all the time. Guess what, I find that I like eating vegetarian meals a lot more than I thought I would. But when I do eat meat I don't mind going all out.

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over 4 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

That's pretty much what i've been doing. I eat vegetarian every day breakfast and lunch (close to vegan but can't give up milk in my coffee or greek yogurt. Or eggs. Cheese. Who am I kidding? Not vegan.). Veg dinner is easier in the summer when there's so much great produce. When I want meat, I also don't mind going all out since it's relatively infrequent.

Me

over 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Add me to your group here. I started going vegetarian for breakfast everyday plus one full day a week several months ago. A couple weeks ago I progressed to vegetarian 2 days a week plus everyday for breakfast. The exploration of quinoa, beans, and tofu has been a lot of fun - and sometimes more successful than other times :-). And I agree with Tom that I really taste the meat and appreciate it more the other days. I don't see myself ever giving up meat entirely; I'd just like a wider variety of protein in my diet and increase my fruits, veggies and whole grains.

Bike2

over 4 years ago Sagegreen

Thank you!! You have conducted a symphony of flavors here. I made this for myself tonight for dinner and enjoyed immensely. Too often I cook for folks who can't eat garlic, or olive oil, or gluten, or can't mix dairy with meat, etc., etc. But what a pleasure to savor this! The main improvisations I made were to use 1/2 cup of celeriac in place of the celery and buttermilk in place of whole milk. I rarely cook with red wine, but opened a Cantina Zuccagnini for this. Lovely.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

I am glad you enjoyed it and I love celery root addition.

Bike2

over 4 years ago Sagegreen

I am serving this again tonight for company!

Bike2

over 4 years ago Sagegreen

Any other recommendations for the beef if ground short ribs are not handy?

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Anything with a high fat content. Baring that ground chuck, or if you have some ground pork add it to the mix too.

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over 4 years ago marynn

Tom, as I finished browning the first batch of these meatballs, I slipped one to my husband who was trying to reinstall a balky cabinet shelf. Instantly he was transformed from a snarling wreck to dumbfounded bliss. He declared this meatball to be the absolute very best he has ever tasted anywhere. Period. I did use fresh breadcrumbs vs. dried and shot in a jab of anchovy paste, but the rest is all you. Many, many thanks.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks and I think the anchovy paste is a good addition and the bread crumbs I am not sure make a difference whether dry or fresh. I am glad you enjoyed them.

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

I forgot to add...saved and printed!

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

Fabulous recipe and gorgeous photograph...as usual!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks, sis you gat that rattlesnake out of the garden?

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over 4 years ago healthierkitchen

You have a very lucky family!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

No actually I am the lucky one

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over 4 years ago LizC

wow. this looks incredible.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks.

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

1 1/2 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste is added with the stock. I noticed I whiffed it this morning. Will edit when allowed.

Massimo's_deck_reflection_10_27_13

over 4 years ago lapadia

I second that...sounds and looks mouth-watering!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thank you lapadia

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over 4 years ago gingerroot

Wow. This looks really delicious!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks gingerroot

Monkeys

over 4 years ago monkeymom

Gorgeous!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks, where have you been I have been missing your great recipes?

Monkeys

over 4 years ago monkeymom

Hi there...so nice of your to notice and sorry for the delayed response. I've had to cut back on my food52 obsession! Been busy with travel and work, plus my poor dad broke his hip while we were in Hawaii. He's back at home and doing great, thank goodness. Been checking in on all the great stuff though and will be making this meatballs hopefully soon!

Newliztoqueicon-2

over 4 years ago Lizthechef

Talk about saving the best for last...Love how you raise the bar - my cooking reflects it. Thanks, Tom, and thumbs up!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks Liz. This was dinner tonight and it was pretty tasty.

Bike2

over 4 years ago Sagegreen

Mouth-watering!

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thank you.

Mrs._larkin_370

over 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese is my favorite pasta dish! This sounds fabulous, thirschfeld. Is the last whole milk 1/2 cup?

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over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Thanks for the heads up on the milk. Yes a 1/2 cup.