The renowned restaurant may have sadly closed its doors, but the holidays are the perfect time to revisit this classic Italian Christmas season dish…given special hidden touches by chef Mark Peel. The meatballs are especially soft thanks to chunks of bread, and popping with flavor courtesy of cracked fennel, dry white wine and diced mushrooms.
If you are looking for a crowd-pleasing holiday meal that can be made ahead, this is one to flag!
This delicious recipe comes to us by way of Sunset.com and Myrecipes.com
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 large garlic cloves, halved and thinly sliced
- 3 cans (28 oz. each) diced tomatoes (we prefer crushed tomatoes from San Marzano)
- About 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- About 3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large fresh basil sprigs, plus 1/2 cup leaves
- WE ADD—one box of baby spinach leaves and this dish easily becomes a complete meal. The spinach cooks down and just blends right in with the basil…..even your littlest and fussiest eaters will never know.
- About 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, chopped (we prefer these diced small)
- 2 teaspoons cracked fennel seeds (you can use a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- About 2/3 cup cold dry white wine, divided
- 4 ounces country bread such as pain au levain, crusts removed, cut into 1-in. cubes
- 3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 3/4 pound cold ground pork
- 3/4 pound cold ground turkey (dark meat is more flavorful, but you can substitute breast, or ground chicken)
- 3/4 pound cold ground beef chuck
- 2 tablespoons flour (this is optional…the meatballs are delicious even without this step)
- 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti
- About 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Make sauce: In a 5- to 6-qt. pan, cook oil and garlic over medium-low heat until garlic softens, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cover, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until thick, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If needed, crush tomatoes with a spoon to break up. Stir in basil sprigs. Turn off heat; keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, make meatballs: Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add mushrooms, fennel, salt, and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup wine and the bread until liquid is absorbed.
3. Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse to finely chop. Scrape into bowl of a stand mixer and let cool. Add parsley, meats, and 1/3 cup wine and beat on low speed until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Using wet hands, shape meat into 1 1/2-in. balls. Heat 2 large frying pans over medium heat with 1 tbsp. oil each. Brown about a third of meatballs in each pan, turning once and adding oil if needed, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. With a slotted spatula, transfer meatballs to a platter. Repeat with remaining meatballs and oil.
5. Scrape all the drippings into 1 pan. Whisk in flour, then cook over medium heat until bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in 2 cups sauce to loosen browned bits. Scrape into pan with rest of sauce and stir.
6. Return sauce to a simmer. Gently stir in meatballs; simmer, covered, until flavors are blended, about 20 minutes. Discard basil sprigs. Cut remaining basil leaves into fine slivers and stir into sauce. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti as package directs.
7. Drain pasta and transfer to a large shallow bowl. Ladle all the meatballs and about half the sauce on top, and toss to coat. Serve with cheese and extra sauce.