Ingredients Jump to Instructions ↓

  1. 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil

  3. 2 garlic cloves, minced

  4. 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

  5. 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed*

  6. 1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes, pureed

  7. 1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

  8. 1 tablespoon roughly chopped capers

  9. 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  10. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  11. 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  12. 1/4 cup milk

  13. 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)

  14. 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

  15. 1 garlic clove, minced

  16. 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

  17. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  18. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  19. 1/3 pound ground chuck

  20. 1/3 pound ground pork

  21. 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  22. 16 fresh basil leaves about the size of rolls

  23. 16 small (2 in. wide) soft dinner rolls, split with

  24. 1 side attached and broiled to toast

  25. 1/2 cup shaved pecorino cheese (use a vegetable peeler)

  26. Long toothpicks

Instructions Jump to Ingredients ↑

  1. Make sauce: In a 4- to 5-qt. pan over medium heat, sauté onion in oil until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, chile flakes, and fennel; cook until garlic softens, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick, 15 to 25 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, make meatballs: In a large bowl, combine egg, milk, and panko and let sit a few minutes. When crumbs are softened, stir in grated pecorino, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add meats, breaking up with your fingers, and mix well with your hands. With wet hands, roll meat mixture into 16 balls, each about 1 1/2 in. wide.

  3. Heat oil in a large, heavy frying pan (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat. Cook meatballs until well browned all over, turning as needed, 6 to 8 minutes total; reduce heat if needed. With a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to paper towels.

  4. Gently stir meatballs into sauce, return to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is very thick, 10 to 15 minutes.

  5. To serve, put a basil leaf in each roll. Set a meatball and a generous spoonful of sauce on each basil leaf, then add a little pecorino. Close sandwiches with toothpicks if you like. Serve with napkins.

  6. Mastering meatballs. They sound rustic, but they're delicate things that suffer from over-handling. Here are tips for making them come out right.

  7. Mixing: Always start by mixing the bread crumbs (which keep the meatballs from getting tough), any liquids, and seasonings—then add the meat. Stop when the mixture looks evenly blended; don't overwork it.

  8. Forming: Dampen your hands with cold water to keep the meat mixture from sticking while you roll it into balls. If it's still sticky, let it sit for a few minutes in the fridge.

  9. Browning: A good crust helps meatballs retain their shape—important if they're going to simmer in a thick sauce. If you plan to eat them on their own or add them to broth, though, a light pan-frying will do the trick.

  10. *Crush fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle, or buzz in a clean coffee grinder.

  11. Note: Nutritional analysis is per main-course serving.


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