Thursday, January 17, 2013


I realize I am venturing outside the soup and stew realm in posting about meatballs.  But I can't not share something this good.

Wayne and I had these meatballs (exactly one each) during the Russian River Valley Wine & Food Affair in November.  For a little more info on that fun event, see and
They were serving them at Mill Creek Vineyards.  At the time, and after sampling only one meatball, I proclaimed they were THE BEST MEATBALLS EVER.  (more accurately, it was THE BEST MEATBALL EVER).  I am pretty darn fond of the meatballs at Barbacco in San Francisco, so I took that judgment seriously.  I have now made them myself twice, and there is no doubt about their status.

So with no further ado...

These meatballs have alot of tasty ingredients in them that make them so good.  That is onion, garlic, parmigiano reggiano, basil, pepper and currants in there.

Part of what makes them so good in my opinion is that they have both beef and Italian sausage in them. Egg, milk and bread crumbs help hold them together and keep them really moist.  Note Le Creuset in the background at the ready to do some browning.

The meatballs are browned on all sides in batches (this is what takes a LONG time), then baked in the oven to cook them through.  There is also a simple tomato sauce to make to go with them.  I don't think you want or need to have a large amount of sauce with these. Just a little to keep them moist.

After browning and baking, I put them all in Le Creuset with some warm sauce on top to head over to Mike and Shirley's for the Patriots game.  In our haste to leave, I didn't think to take a picture of the finished product.  At Shirley's my Le Creuset had the opportunity to become acquainted with hers as they sat on adjacent burners on the stove while the meatballs rewarmed a bit.  Unfortunately I failed to capture that special moment in a photo. Hers is colored Marseille, which is my other favorite Le Creuset color.

The meatballs were very well received.  I was really happy that Shirley liked them, as I was making them at her request.  Shirley is an extremely good cook - both how she cooks and what she cooks - and I love when she cooks for me.  I eat so much that I end up in pain or passed out in a food coma every time.  But this makes me very happy!  So it was really fun to have her enjoy them so much and give back.

Note that the quantity below will make about two dozen meatballs.  I think if you are going to go through the effort, you'll want to make at least a double batch.  I made a double batch of the meatballs with a single batch of sauce, and it was just right.  You want just a little bit of sauce clinging to the meatballs and keeping them moist.  And you want to taste the flavors of the meatballs.

Nonna's Italian Meatballs
Chef Ken Rochioli

1/3 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons milk   [I used whole]
1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese   [I used parmigiano reggiano]
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 egg
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons pine nuts   [it is critical to chop these or they come off during browning]
2 tablespoons dried currants

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the bread crumbs and milk in a medium bowl and let them stand 5 minutes [I try to break it up well so you don't have a big clump].  Add the Parmesan, onions, basil, egg, garlic, pepper, sausage, ground beef, pine nuts and currants, and blend well [I blend it really thoroughly with gloved hands.  The entire mixture should hold together well when thoroughly blended].  Using wet [or gloved] hands, form the mixture into balls [I go for slightly larger than golfball size].  Saute the meatballs in a nonstick pan over medium heat until they're uniformly browned [this is done in batches, and I use a little olive oil for the first batch so they don't stick].  Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  [Break open a meatball after 10 minutes to check whether cooked all the way through.  I've found it may take 15-20 minutes at the size I've made].


1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and saute until they're golden, approximately 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir the pot for one minute, then add the tomatoes and their juice, and half of the basil, and bring them to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce on low heat until it thickens - at least half an hour.  Mix in the remaining basil and season with salt and pepper.

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