Have you read the Neapolitan Novels yet? I just finished the 4-part series by Italian writer Elena Ferrante, and I’ve been recommending them to everyone. (Find the first book, My Brilliant Friend, here. Just try not to judge by the cover!) Some of my favorite authors mention food (and fashion!) often, and Ferrante is one of them—her characters munch on pastries, pizza, and pasta throughout the series. (Find recipes for pistachio cream puffs and frittelle inspired by descriptions in the books here and here.)
No meatballs appear in the books, but cooking and eating this dish (based on both Marcella Hazan’s and Michele Scicolone’s recipes) made me feel a little like I had taken a quick trip to the Naples of Ferrante’s books and of my imagination. I think Andrew was transported too, or at least he was really pleased with this dinner. I think you’ll be really pleased with the recipe too, but especially with the books—try them!
Neapolitan Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
for the sauce
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp minced onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 14.5 oz can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
for the meatballs
- 3/4 lb ground beef (85% lean)
- 1/4 lb ground pork
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
- 2 Tbsp minced parsley
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- freshly ground black pepper
- about 1/2 cup neutral-flavored high-smoke-point oil, like avocado oil
serves 4 to 6
- Make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onion begins to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, stir, and cook until mixture begins to bubble. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and set aside.
- Make the meatballs: In a medium bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients except the oil. Mix with your hands until just combined. Do not over mix! Form into balls of about 1 1/2 tablespoons each.
- In a large deep saute pan, over medium heat, heat about 1/4 inch of oil (about 1/2 cup, but more or less depending on the size of the pan) until hot, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully arrange the meatballs in the oil and cook, turning every 3 to 4 minutes, until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Tilt the pan to the side, and scoop out all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil; discard oil. Add the tomato sauce to the pan with the meatballs, increase heat to medium and heat until sauce begins to bubble, then reduce heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with bread or rice.