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Tender Pancetta Meatballs

Ever try a meatball so tender it made you stop just to take in the flavor? For me, this happened when I was in California. I took a bite of it as I was speaking. The little balls of mixed meat (usually gross, but appropriate here) had been simmering in a slow cooker all day as my friend and I watched them. I didn’t know meat could be so soft. It’s like the moment I found out about chewy Chips Ahoy. It was life-changing.

Unlike my friend’s mom did in California, I didn’t use three types of meat and I didn’t use a slow cooker. Still, this recipe for meatballs will produce some of the tastiest and tenderest meatballs you have ever sunk your teeth into. Seriously, my 11-month-old niece was eating them. You’ll find that the magic, as usual, lies in the fat and carbs.

 

Tender Pancetta Meatballs

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

  • 32 ounces of ground beef (85/15 fat)
  • 1 ½ pounds of spaghetti (or pasta of choice)
  • 4 ounces of diced fatty pancetta
  • 4 slices of fresh white bread
  • 1 ½ large yellow/white onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoon of minced fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper

 

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, break the white bread up into very small pieces. If the crusts are dry, discard them.
  2. In a food processor, puree 1 onion (saving the other half for later), 3 cloves of garlic, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter.
  3. Add the onion and garlic mixture to the bread and combine. This and the pancetta will help keep the meatballs soft as they cook.
  4. Add ground beef, pancetta, remaining garlic, and ½ of the oregano, rosemary, and thyme to the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. I used approximately about 1 ½ teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  5. Use clean hands to thoroughly combine all of the ingredients.
  6. Form the meatballs into the size of your liking. I made the meatballs about the size of large sliders. To make them this big, you just have to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  7. In a large pan, heat half the olive oil on high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add enough meatballs to cover half the surface area of the pan. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan because overcrowding will prevent meatballs from searing properly.
  8. Cook the meatballs for 3-4 minutes per side (or 2 minutes per side if they’re smaller), and move the finished meatballs onto a plate until all meatballs are cooked.
  9. While the meatballs are searing, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and remaining olive oil in large pot. Add the other half onion (chopped) and 3 cloves of minced garlic into the pot. Cook over medium-high heat until the onions and garlic begin to brown. Add the remaining ½ of oregano, rosemary, and thyme, and cook for an additional minute.
  10. Add 2 cans of tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper into the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  11. Place the seared meatballs in the sauce and allow it to continue cooking. For larger meatballs like the ones pictured, it’ll take about 15-20 minutes for the meatballs to fully cook after the sauce has come to a boil. For smaller meatballs, 10-15 minutes.
  12. While the meatballs are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the spaghetti and cook to al-dente, following the instructions on the package.
  13. Drain the pasta and put it on a plate with the meatballs and sauce. Then, garnish the top with parsley.
  14. Enjoy!

Photos by Josh Guirguis

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