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Meatballs in Marinara

An Italian-American classic.

In the Italian-American world, the meatball is very important. One’s style of meatballs can tell you volumes about their character: do they use a small ice cream scoop to make an army of perfect, dainty spheres? Or do they fashion huge, malformed softballs speckled with chunks of undercooked onions? We like ours to be a substantial size and we sneak a little lemon zest into them—it doesn’t immediately register at the table, but it gives them their own character. A trick is to big meatballs that are still light is not handle the meat too much during the forming, otherwise they turn rubbery and dense. —Will Guidara

This recipe comes from Mamma Guidara’s, the Sunday night supper at The NoMad bar—a celebration of red-checkered tablecloths, warm bread with the little gold packets of butter, Dean Martin, Amaretto Sours, bread crumbs, cannoli, and lots and lots of red sauce. Learn more here. 

Ingredients

Makes 4 servings
  • + meatballs
  • + Marinara Sauce
  • 1/4 C canola oil
  • + parmesan
  • + finely grated lemon zest
  • + chopped parsley

Meatballs

  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/4 C Italian breadcrumbs
  • 6 oz ground pork
  • 6 oz ground veal
  • 6 oz ground beef
  • 4 oz ground prosciutto
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 T dried oregano
  • 1/2 t red chili flakes
  • 1/3 C grated parmesan
  • 4 T minced garlic
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • 1 t ground fennel
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t kosher salt

Marinara Sauce

  • 2/3 C extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 28-oz cans whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 3 sprigs basil
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • + kosher salt

Preparation

Meatballs

Meatballs
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/4 C Italian breadcrumbs
  • 6 oz ground pork
  • 6 oz ground veal
  • 6 oz ground beef
  • 4 oz ground prosciutto
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 T dried oregano
  • 1/2 t red chili flakes
  • 1/3 C grated parmesan
  • 4 T minced garlic
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • 1 t ground fennel
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  1. In a large mixing bowl, pour the milk over the breadcrumbs to cover. Let stand at room temperature until the breadcrumbs have completely soaked up the milk.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide the mixture into 16 even portions and shape into balls. Hold in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce
  • 2/3 C extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 28-oz cans whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 3 sprigs basil
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • + kosher salt
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely tender, about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer. Using butcher’s twine, tie the basil, thyme, and bay leaf into a sachet and add to the tomatoes. Cook the sauce over very low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until reduced by half, about 6 hours.

  2. Remove and discard the herb bundle, and grind the sauce through the small holes of a food mill. Season with salt. Keep warm.

Assemble the Dish

Ingredients
  • + meatballs
  • + Marinara Sauce
  • 1/4 C canola oil
  • + parmesan
  • + finely grated lemon zest
  • + chopped parsley
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Heat the oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over high heat. Carefully place the meatballs in the pan in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan. Reduce the heat to medium, and continue to sear the meatballs, turning occasionally, until they are browned on all sides.

  3. Add the Marinara Sauce so that the sauce comes about halfway up the meatballs. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven until the meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve topped with grated parmesan, lemon zest, and chopped parsley.