Polpettini alla Napoletani
These meatballs are incredibly easy to make and perfect for feeding a crowd. Instead of frying or browning the meatballs I poach them from a raw state in the San Marzano tomato sauce. The result is an incredibly moist and succulent meatball with a delicate texture. They can be served on their own with a vegetable side such as braised greens or with spaghetti for a classic comfort dish.
Ingredients (serves 8-10):
-Extra virgin olive oil
-2 28 ounce cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
-3 pounds of ground heritage pork (buy at Bi-Rite Market or from a good local butcher)
-3 whole eggs
-1/2 cup of fresh ricotta
-2.5 cups of fresh bread crumbs (I love the ones Bi-Rite makes in-house)
-2 tablespoons fennel seeds (lightly toasted in a dry pan)
-Chili flakes (as much as you like, I typically do about 2-3 tablespoons)
-Parmigiano Reggiano for grating
-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
Place the pork into a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix the eggs and ricotta together. Add to the pork along with all the other ingredients. Add in a healthy amount of salt (eg. 2-3 tablespoons). Mix together with your hands until everything is well combined. While you do not want to mix too hard be sure that everything is evenly distributed. Make balls and place onto a platter or sheet pan.
In a large sautee pan or Dutch oven add 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over high heat with the garlic. Sweat the garlic for 20-30 seconds and turn off the heat. Wait 1 minute and then add all the San Marzano tomatoes. Turn the heat back to high and season with salt. Once heated through and bubbling stir everything through and turn the heat to medium. Add the meatballs and simmer gently for 12-15 minutes on one side. Turn and do the same on the other until just cooked through.
Season with Parmigiano Reggiano and serve. Spoon sauce over each plate and grate more parmesan cheese. Or toss with best quality pasta such as bucatini.
Note: If you do not have a very large Dutch oven you will need to do this in two separate pans at the same time. The other option is to use a larger hotel pan placed over 2 burners.
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James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com