A few weeks ago, hubby asked me to cook for his golfing buddies, since they were playing near the house. I gracefully agreed, and decided to make some veal meatballs over spaghetti. When cooking for a hungry crowd, pasta is always a good idea. I could have easily made a meat sauce, but I decided to get a little fancy, and made meatballs with Pecorino cheese. These delicious meatballs were inspired by D’Angelo Pizza and Wine Bar, but I created my version.
Serves 8-10 Degree of difficulty: Medium – Difficult
This recipe can easily be divided in half. I am sharing it with you, because I was cooking for a crowd and needed a lot sauce. Normally, I recommend using a marinara sauce for these meatballs, as veal is a more delicate meat, and they can easily fall apart if don’t watch them carefully. In general, marinara is much quicker, where the standard sauce is a slow cooking process. Do not use the sausage in the marinara, as it will crowd the sauce too much. The veal by itself will make a nice appetizer to serve at a party, and will wow your guests. You can also serve them with a side of ricotta cheese. As you can see, there are many variations to this dish.
- 3 lbs. ground veal
- 12 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, divided in half
- 1 small onion, grated
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup of whole milk
- 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- A large handful of chopped Italian parsley, flat-leave
- 2 eggs
- 2 lbs of Spaghetti or any pasta of your choice
1) First, prepare the meatballs. In a large bowl, place the ground veal, breadcrumbs, 6 oz of grated cheese, milk, garlic, onion, seasonings, parsley and eggs. Combine all the ingredients and mix well with your hands. If you are a beginner cook, I suggest you use an ice cream scoop with handles to form your meatballs. Place them on a greased pan, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 – 12 minutes. Turn them halfway through, to get color on both sides. Remove and set aside. You can certainly pan-fry them also, but it would take a little more work. There is no need to fully cook them as they will continue to cook in the sauce. Yields about 25-26 meatballs using the ice cream scoop.
Ingredients for the sauce:
- 4 lbs. sweet Italian sausage with fennel
- 3 – 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 container of Pomi chopped tomatoes, or other brand
- 1 Cento, (size #10 can) fully prepared Spaghetti sauce *
- 1 can tomato paste
- Oregano, salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water
- a pinch or two of sugar, optional
1) In a large pot, over med-high heat, add 2 tbsp. olive oil, and brown the sausages (whole) on both sides. You will do this in batches. Next, cut the sausage links in 3 pieces each. Set aside.
2) In the same pot, add more olive oil to brown the tomato paste. Cook and stir, until you get a nice caramelization, add the chopped tomatoes, the prepared sauce, the seasonings, sugar and the water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Add the meatballs and the sausage in the sauce. Simmer covered for 2 – 2.5 hours, while stirring FREQUENTLY to avoid burning on the bottom of the pot. Always taste for flavor and adjust seasoning as needed.
3) When sauce is nearly done, boil the water for the spaghetti and cook according to package directions.
Please note, I took a big chance by simmering the veal for so long, 10 more minutes I would have had a meat sauce. I strongly suggest you do a marinara sauce for them, which will take about 30 minute to 45 minutes. I have been in the kitchen for 25 years and love to experiment and take chances. (making a funny face)
*This is not my typical sauce, because I was cooking for a large crowd, it was convenient for me to use that large can of prepared sauce, which can be found at Italian specialty stores. I occasionally change the brand in the quest for a perfect sauce.
Recommended sauce for the Veal Meatballs (for about 12)
Ingredients for Marinara sauce:
- 1 – 2 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, San Marzano is ideal as they are known for their sweetness, but they will cost you a bit more.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pepper flakes, optional
- 2-3 basil leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup of Chardonnay, optional
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 cup of water
Heat olive oil in med-sized pan, and saute’ the garlic. As soon, as they release their aromas, deglaze with wine, add tomatoes, water, seasonings and simmer covered for about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. This marinara is enough for about 1 lb. of pasta and 10 – 12 meatballs. (About half of the recipe above, more or less) PLEASE BEWARE, THE SAUCE WILL SPATTER, KEEP IT ON LOW AND USE A LID AS A SHIELD.
Now, that everything is cooked, it’s time to serve. I normally, place all the meal on the table, but in this case, I had everyone come up to me in the kitchen with their dishes, so I could have control over the portions. They were very big eaters, and I wanted to make sure, I had enough for everyone.
With the holidays upon us, I hope, you will try these meatballs with the marinara sauce. Not only, they will look festive, but I can assure you, they will be the talk of the town.
Happy Cooking and Happy Holidays From Gina’s Kitchen!
Wine pairing suggestion: Chianti from the region of Tuscany. A luscious and widely popular wine made mostly from the red Sangiovese grapes.