We eat meatballs in the Tuscan manner, without pasta. We’ll put out a platter of them, and before long, they disappear. In this recipe, we use both lamb and beef, but they are also very good when made with one or the other. One tip about buying ground lamb, however: It can be quite fatty, so if possible, have the butcher grind well-trimmed lamb shoulder for you.
Couscous would be a good side dish or just serve them with lots of crusty bread for wiping up the sauce. Mint may be a surprising addition, but it really adds a fresh flavor.
Serves: 4 – 6
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup hearty red wine, such as Chianti
- One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, pureed in a blender
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, plus more for serving
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground round beef (15 percent fat)
- 1 pound lean ground lamb
- 1∕2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
- 1 medium yellow onion, very finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
- 2 large egg yolks
- 11∕2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1∕2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1∕4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
To make the sauce.
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the red onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes.
- Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the pureed tomatoes, 1 cup water, and mint and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend the flavors, about 20 minutes.
- The sauce should remain somewhat liquid as it will reduce more when cooked with the meatballs and the additional sauce will distribute the heat and encourage even cooking. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
- Remove from the heat.
To make the meatballs
- Using clean hands, mix the ground beef, lamb, bread crumbs, yellow onion, garlic, parsley, mint, Pecorino, yolks, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Using about a tablespoon for each, roll the mixture into 36 meatballs and transfer the balls to a baking sheet.
- Heat the oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. In batches without crowding, add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 6 minutes, adding oil as needed. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a platter. Pour out the fat in the pan.
- Add the sauce to the skillet and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Return the meatballs to the sauce and reduce the heat to low. Partially cover the skillet and cook, occasionally stirring the sauce, until the meatballs are tender, about 30 minutes. If the sauce is reduced too much, stir in enough water to loosen it.
- Transfer the meatballs and the sauce to a deep platter. Serve hot, with the Pecorino on the side.