My friend recently sent me an article about A16 meatballs. I had heard of them before but the buzz around them is that they are pretty labor intensive to prepare. Since I have little or no time for labor intensive meals, I just filed it away as something I'd make when I was old and bored.
Well the time came for us to start planning how we'd spend our anniversary. We elected to celebrate on the weekend since the actual anniversary fell on a weekday (today!). We also decided that it would be nice to just celebrate at home as a family. So we set out to make a really nice meal paired with a great bottle of wine and spend quality time with each other.
So it dawned on me that A16 meatballs would be the perfect thing to make for a special meal where we had lots of time to prepare.
Having said all that, I decided not to grind all of the meat myself, opting instead to purchase grass fed organic ground meat. The original recipe calls for prosciutto and chopped pork fat as well but I left that out too and subbed in bacon fat (something we already have plenty of). The original recipe also does not include the addition of garlic but I added it anyway because what is a meatball without garlic, kwim?
So I prepped the meatballs, taking time to fry up a test meatball to ensure adequate seasoning.
After I fried the test meatball (it was seasoned perfectly) I threw these bad boys into the oven to cook. When they were browned I removed them from the oven and drained off all of the fat that was in the bottom of the pan and removed the meatballs.
The recipe calls for a very simple sauce for braising - 1 can of crushed san marzano tomatoes. Well, I didn't want to go quite that simple so I put the roasting pan on the stove top, added back some of the fat rendered from the meatballs and heated it up. To this I added 1 clove of sliced garlic, cooked it til fragrant and then a splash of red wine to deglaze the pan and pick up all the lovely brown bits left by the meatballs. Then instead of one can of crushed tomatoes I added 2 because I wanted alot of sauce. Stirred the whole thing up, added the meatballs back in and set it all in the oven to braise for about and hour and a half.
When the whole thing was done I sprinkled it with torn fresh basil and served over linguine with a bit of grated cheese. The recipe calls for grana padano but I could not find that so parmagianno, it was.
Here are the finished gems:
Links to the original recipe and an easier version:
A16 Meatballs, the easy way
A16 Meatball Mod - McG style:
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 half loaf of day old italian bread torn into cubes and chopped into coarse crumbs in the food processor*
1 tablespoon of bacon fat
1 clove of minced garlic
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
2/3 cup fresh ricotta, drained if necessary
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
2 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes with juices
1 clove of garlic sliced
3 tblspoons of red wine
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Block of grana padano or parmagianno reggiano for grating
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil.
2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread, bacon fat, parsley, 1 tablespoon of the salt, oregano, fennel seeds, and chile flakes and mix with your hands just until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, and milk just enough to break up any large curds of ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the ground meat mixture
a little at at time until the mixture should feels wet and tacky - you may not need to use all of the ricotta mixture. Pinch off a small nugget of the meatball mixture,
flatten into a disk, and cook it in a small sauté pan with a bit of olive oil. Taste it and adjust the seasoning of the mixture with salt if needed.
Form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls each weighing about 2 ounces, and place on the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 30 meatballs.
4. Bake, rotating the sheets once from front to back, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are browned. Remove from the oven, place the meatballs in a bowl and drain the fat into a separate container. Lower the oven temperature to 300° F.
5. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and then pass the tomatoes and their juices through a food mill or chop in a food processor.
6. Place one of the roasting pans onto the stovetop and turn the heat up to medium. Add a couple of teaspoons of the meatball fat back to the roasting pan, cook the sliced garlic in the hot oil until it is fragrant and translucent.
7. Add the red wine to the pan and then the tomatoes. Stir to incorporate.
8. Pack the meatballs into the roasting pan with the sauce cover tightly with aluminum foil, and braise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the tomato sauce.
7. Pull the pan out of the oven and uncover. Distribute the basil leaves throughout the sauce.
8. For each serving, ladle meatballs with some of the sauce into a warmed bowl. Grate cheese over the top, drizzle with olive oil to finish, and serve immediately.
*I didn't have day old bread so I toasted the torn cubes in the oven for a few minutes before I threw them into the food processor