We're the first to admit that food holidays can be gimmicky, but they also give us an occasion to celebrate an underrated dish. Today, that dish in question is the meatball. The flavorful spheres of chopped and ground meat or vegetables—seasoned and cooked to perfection—are the unsung hero of any pasta dish. So why not make them the reigning star of the meal? Here, we tapped James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz of Fi'lia, a buzzy Italian restaurant inside the SLS Brickell in the burgeoning culinary neighborhood of Brickell, Fla., for his tried-and-true recipe, which combines three different types of meat to create a tender texture and explosive taste.
Read on for the full breakdown, just in time for National Meatball Day.
1 pint whole milk
6 slices stale white bread, crust removed
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper
½ cup grated Parmigiano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 pounds ground beef
½ pound ground veal
½ pound ground pork
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 cans of high quality crushed tomatoes
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh basil
6 slices of country-style sourdough bread
2 cups whole milk ricotta
How to Make It
1. Whisk milk and eggs together in a large bowl. Add the bread, breaking it up in your hands until the liquid is fully absorbed.
2. Add the salt, pepper, cheese, garlic and parsley, and continue to mix thoroughly with your hands until combined.
3. Add the three ground meats and continue to mix using your hands until fully incorporated.
4. Turn out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, wrap up securely and refrigerate until chilled, at least an hour.
5. Remove from refrigerator and using an ice cream scoop or large tablespoon, portion into balls, gently cupping them in your hands to form uniform spheres and setting in rows on a baking sheet while you work.
6. Place a large cast iron skillet over medium heat with ¼ inch of canola oil. Place the handle side of a wooden spoon in the oil. Once bubbles form around the edges, it’s ready.
7. Pan fry the meatballs, working in batches to brown on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Remove balls as they’re ready with a slotted spoon and set to drain on a paper towel lined plate.
8. Add the oil to a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, and sweat the onions for 5-7 minutes, cooking until translucent. Add the garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Add the basil and meatballs, and simmer for 20 more. While the sauce is cooking, preheat oven to 300°F.
9. Add the garlic to the olive oil. Place sourdough slices on a baking sheet, lightly drizzle with the garlic-infused oil and bake for 8 minutes or until crisp but not browned.
10. Serve meatballs warm from the stove, family-style or plated in individual bowls, layering some sauce as a base and topping with spoonfuls of ricotta, crostini to the side and freshly torn basil.
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