by Rick Tramonto with Mary Goodbody
(Broadway Books, 2007)
Serves 4 to 6
One of my good friends, chef David DiGregorio of Osteria Via Stato in Chicago shared a version of this recipe for mini veal meatballs with me, explaining that it was part of his family’s culinary traditions. From the minute I tasted the little meatballs, I was hooked. While I think they are great with caramelized onions, you could serve the meatballs with tomato sauce or spooned over pasta. Either way, they are fantastico!—Rick Tramonto
For the caramelized onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 quart chicken stock, or 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups veal stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
For the veal meatballs
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or other coarse dried crumbs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1 tomato, coarsely diced
1 tablespoon julienned fresh basil
Make the caramelized onions
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onions, and sugar; season with salt and pepper; and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until caramelized and golden brown.
2. Add the wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer briskly for 3 to 6 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer briskly for 5 to 8 minutes, or until reduced by half.
3. Stir the butter into the sauce and when it’s incorporated, season to taste with salt and pepper. Finish with a splash of the vinegar (1 to 2 teaspoons). Cover and keep warm.
Make theveal meatballs
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly oil a baking sheet.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread crumbs and melted butter and mix well by hand. Add the cheese, milk, eggs, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, the oregano, olive oil, salt, black and red pepper, and lemon zest and mix well.
3. Add the ground pork and veal to the bowl and mix well. Pinch off small walnut-sized pieces of meat, each about 1/2 ounce, and make mini meatballs. You should have between 32 and 40 meatballs. A few extra are fine.
4. Transfer the veal meatballs to the baking sheet. Arrange them in neat rows, leaving space between them. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Do not overcook.
5. Divide the veal meatballs among 4 serving plates. Spoon the warm sauce over the top of the meatballs and garnish each plate with some of the remaining parsley, a little diced tomato, and the basil. Drizzle the remaining vinegar over each plate and serve.
About the wine
The gently rolling hills of Montepulciano in Tuscany are the setting for the Sangiovese vineyards that produce Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Generally earlier drinking than Brunello, and with lower acidity than Chianti, this category of wine is one of many that are wonderful with the veal meatballs. Well-balanced dishes need well-balanced wines, so try elegant examples from Avignonesi or Il Macchione.
Recipe © 2007 by Rick Tramonto. All rights reserved.