At home in Rome, meatballs cooking on the stove top meant that rigatoni with meat sauce would be served as a first course. The abundant tomato sauce in which the meatballs cook almost steals the show from the meatballs themselves, and makes for a tangy compliment to pasta.
There are many Italian meatball recipes. This one is a simple favorite.
2 lbs lean ground beef
1 lb ground pork
3-4 sprigs flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
The inside only of ½ loaf of Italian bread
3 28-oz. cans peeled whole tomatoes, or more if desired
1 beef bullion cube
Dry red wine
Place the ground meat into a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, parsley, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Place the inside of ½ loaf of Italian bread in a separate bowl. Add just enough milk to moisten all of the bread, and let sit for a few minutes. Pull the bread piece by piece out of the bowl, squeeze to eliminate excess milk, and add it to the meat mixture. Add 2 pinches of salt, and mix it all together with your hands.
Cover the bottom of a large pot with olive oil. Cut a ¼ inch slice of a large onion, chop it finely, and sauté it in the olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add two carrots, and two stalks of celery, cut into pieces. Gently place the meatballs one by one into the pot, and then add the bullion cube and a dash of dry red wine.
Add your whole tomatoes, passing them through a food mill to obtain a smooth sauce. (See Methods section for more information). You should use at least 3 large cans of whole tomatoes, but more is fine – you will just have more sauce left over. Bring the sauce back to a boil, and then allow it to cook for 20 to 25 more minutes, adding salt to taste and stirring gently from time to time.
Serve in pasta bowls and have plenty of bread ready to soak up the sauce.
We paired our meatballs with a 2007 Barbera d’Alba from the producer Marchesi di Barolo. Barbera d’Alba is from the Piedmont region of Italy. The wine is a deep, brilliant ruby color with a dark cherry flavor. Well-balanced and very drinkable, it is a perfect companion to polpette al sugo.
This posting is dedicated to all men who love to cook, and whose kitchens require divine intervention once they have finished in order to ever become clean again.