Serves a Crowd

Tiny Meatballs

September 25, 2019
Photo by Katherine Adreon Kimball
Author Notes

I bought a pasta machine as a post breakup gift to myself last summer and that moment really is what started family dinner. Since that first pasta night we have done five or six and without fail, no matter when I make the dough or how early I begin shape the pasta, we will not eat before 11pm. I mostly make traditionally Italian if not more specifically Roman pasta dishes that I picked up while living in Rome in 2012: Bucatini all’Amatriciana, Ragu, Carbonara, occasionally delving into Umbrian Penne alla Norcina. I am fully a snob when it comes to pasta, and this leads us to the true hypocrisy of this post: I made meatballs. Quick recap on the meatball: Italians only serve them by themselves if they’re large, and when they’re small they usually go in soup. When the Italians immigrated to America at the turn of the 20th century they were actually spending less of their income on food then they were in Italy and thus eating more meat and the meatball “snowballed” for lack of a better word. I found a recipe for tiny meatballs last week that had tons of herbs and ricotta AND I could make them the day before dinner, so we put all prior rules and feelings about American meatballs in the bathroom. So these meatballs are a combination of a couple recipes that have all clearly been based off of Marcella Hazan’s recipe from her book Marcella’s Italian Kitchen. The last time I tried to make pasta sauce Ian yelled at me. It was arguably bad pasta sauce. Bad in the sense that it was fully edible and had anyone but me served it we all would have been more than happy, but it was bland, there was much too much sauce in relation to the amount of meat, the flavors didn’t combine right, it didn’t cook long enough, and we all have come to expect more from me. I was not going to let that happen again so I went back to my recipe hunting for making the perfect marinara sauce. Sourcing back to Marcella Hazan she claims that whole peeled tomatoes, a stick of butter, salt, and an onion, and those four things alone make the perfect sauce. Besides the fact that she’s a best-selling James Beard Award-winning food writer, her meatballs came out really good and I figured i’d give it a shot with my own tweaks. Makes 12-14 servings of sauce. Unless you’re feeding a small army or my friends that have apparently never eaten before, halve recipe or plan on freezing some of it. —Katherine Adreon Kimball

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Serves 15
Ingredients
  • Tiny Meatballs
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup basil, finely chopped
  • 1/2 head of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 pounds italian sausage, uncased.
  • Kat's Marinara
  • 2 28 oz can's whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 vidalia onion, cut in 8ths
  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 head of garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup broth (I like the bone broth)
  • 2 dried chile's
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs parsley and basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley and basil
  • 1/2 bottle of red wine (chianti, montepulciano, something lighter)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. So I threw my whole peppercorns, dried chile and herbs into my blender to combine them which to be honest didn’t work, don’t do that. Next time I will put the peppercorns and the chile in the spice grinder and finely dice the herbs and combine in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, salt, and nutmeg. “If you don’t have a spice grinder, regular ground pepper and some cayenne or chile flakes are fine” in my best Ina Garten voice.
  2. In a much larger bowl, mixing with your hands, combine the uncased sausage with the egg yolks and the ricotta. Then add your herbs, spices, and breadcrumbs. Do a test cook on a dime sized piece of sausage mixture, to test your seasoning and adjust where you wish. On a large sheet tray shape your meatballs, I did mine in maybe the size of a quarter in diameter.
  3. I also coated my meatballs in cornstarch and fried them (3-5 minutes in a half inch of oil and then rolled them over for another 3 to 5 minutes) and then kept them overnight to use in my sauce the next day. This made about 110 meatballs, you totally could halve this recipe, this many meatballs was 12-14 servings.
  4. In a big (preferably cast iron) pot heat two tablespoons of olive oil and toss in the onion followed by the garlic cloves to release their aromatics, put everything else in the pot, bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cook for two hours stirring occasionally. You will probably need to add more salt.
  5. If you want a heartier chunkier sauce you can really just use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes and the garlic, if you choose this method I would use cracked pepper instead of whole peppercorns, for a smooth sauce throw the whole cooked down mixture in the blender, make sure you dig out the bay leaves. I added the chopped herbs after pureeing to give my sauce some more color. If you’re serving this with your meatballs add them in to heat the meatballs up again, serve with fettuccini or a big rigatoni and parmesan.

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