Full disclosure: I don’t have a Nonna. I am not Italian and haven’t based this recipe on one passed down through generations of loving hands. I have not been able to eat authentic Italian meatballs for a while since they always have bread in them. There is a great restaurant near me, Mima Vinoteca, which serves their polpette as an appetizer. One big beautiful pillowy meatball with sauce and some warm Italian bread for dipping. I urge everyone I go with to order it and they are never disappointed.
For this recipe, I decided to create my own version using Schar gluten-free ciabatta. I added some sun-dried tomato which gave it an extra boost of flavor. Overall, I was really happy with the texture and while I made my own homemade sauce, you don’t have to. It adds about 1 1/2 hours to the process so feel free to just braise the meatballs in your favorite jarred sauce. However, if you have the time, try making it from scratch. It’s pretty easy and definitely adds a Sunday supper feel to the dish.
As far as I’m concerned, using a meatloaf mix (1/3 each of ground beef, pork and veal) is the best way to make meatballs. Another thing is making sure not to under-season the meat. A great way to test your seasoning is to fry off a small portion of the mix before forming your meatballs. That way you can taste and adjust before you make the whole batch. It’s a genius trick I learned in culinary school.
I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted a recipe. It was an unplanned hiatus but one I needed. The end of the school year tends to get a little hectic. In my last post I shared a lot of feelings. Some even said it read like a journal entry and they were wondering when the recipe would come.
Make no bones about it, this blog is my personal journal. The only one I’ve ever been able to keep. Sometimes it stays light and on the surface. Other times it goes a little deeper. The option to read through or just skip it all and scroll down to the recipe is always there. When I write candidly I am actually telling myself no one is really reading. That’s how I’m able to hit the “publish” button and send it out. I also have a terrible memory so I often forget what I’ve written.
When I see friends who let me know they have made my recipes I am thrilled. As far as the part where they may have read the post and know a lot about what is going on in my life or how I am feeling that particular week, I kind of just block that out. I need to in order to be honest and write authentically. However, when you visit my pages please know I fully support you getting whatever you need while you are here and if it is just the recipe, trust me, I’m cool with that!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ large yellow onion, sliced
- 6 large garlic cloves, smashed
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes (preferable San Marzano)
- ½ cup basil leaves
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
- ¼ tsp sugar
- crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1½ lb meatloaf mix
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 small shallot, diced
- 5 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Schar gluten-free ciabatta roll, torn into 1" pieces (or about 1 cup of your favorite bread)
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp chopped basil
- ¼ cup finely grated parmesan plus more for serving
- Toasted ciabatta for serving
- SAUCE: Heat a large, straight-sided sauté pan over medium and add olive oil. Sauté onions and garlic for 5-7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until onion is softened and golden brown at edges. Crush whole peeled tomatoes into the pan with your hands and pour over liquid from the cans. Add basil, thyme, salt, sugar and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmering for about 1½ hours, until thickened, reduced by about ⅓ and slightly darker in color. Reserve.
- MEATBALLS: Place meatloaf mix in a large bowl and set aside. Place ciabatta in a small bowl with milk and set aside. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp olive oil. Sauté shallots and sun-dried tomatoes until shallots are beginning to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to sauté an additional minute until fragrant. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
- Squeeze excess liquid out of ciabatta and add to meatloaf mix. Add in shallot mixture, parsley, basil, grated parmesan, salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine all ingredients. (At this time, you can cook a small amount of the meatball mixture to see if it is seasoned appropriately). Form into large meatballs, about 2" in diameter each.
- Heat remaining olive oil in the same skilled you used to sauté the shallots over medium-high. Add meatballs and toss gently, trying to keep round shape, while browning on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. Once browned, pour cooked sauce on top and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until meat is cooked through. Serve with toasted ciabatta and additional grated parmesan.