Nonna's Meatballs


12 ozs boneless pork butt, cut into 1-inch squares

12 ozs boneless short rib, cut into 1-inch squares

8 ozs focaccia, cut into 1-inch squares

3 ozs pork back fat, cut into 1-inch squares

3 ozs pancetta, cut into 1-inch squares

3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

3 tsps fresh oregano

2 tsps fennel pollen

1 tsp dried chili flakes

1 tsp cracked black pepper

2 tbsps sea salt

3/4 cup fresh, whole-milk ricotta

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup whole milk

1 28-ounce can pureed San Marzano tomatoes with juices

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Parmigiano-Reggiano® for serving


Designed to pair with SIMI Merlot

Makes 36 meatballs; serves 9-16 people, 2 per person for appetizer or 3-4 for entrée

In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, fatback, pancetta, focaccia, parsley, oregano, fennel pollen, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the salt and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to chill and marinate.

Fit a meat grinder with the medium plate (die). Pass the meat mixture through the grinder, capturing the mixture in a bowl. (If you do not have a meat grinder, have your butcher grind the pork, beef, fatback, and pancetta. Place the focaccia in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. In a large bowl, combine the ground meats, focaccia, parsley, oregano, fennel pollen, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of salt and mix just to combine.)

In second bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, and milk and whisk until blended. Add the ricotta mixture to the meat mixture and mix lightly to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Form the mixture into 36 balls 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and place them on the pans. Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 275°F.

In a blender, combine the tomatoes and the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and blend just until a coarse sauce forms. Pour the sauce into a roasting pan just large enough to accommodate the meatballs in a single layer. Arrange the meatballs in the pan, making sure they are covered with the sauce. Add the basil leaves, distributing them evenly around the pan.

Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Transfer to the oven and braise until the meatballs are cooked through and slightly browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove from the oven, grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top, and serve.

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