Polpette alla Napoletana

Ingredients

  • 3 cups day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground beef
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup pecorino, grated
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped to yield 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted for 2 minutes in a 400 degree F oven
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce, recipe below
BASIC TOMATO SAUCE:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

In a shallow bowl, soak the bread cubes in enough water to cover. Remove the bread cubes and squeeze by hand to wring excess moisture.

In a large bowl, combine the bread, beef, eggs, garlic, pecorino, parsley, pine nuts, salt and pepper and mix by hand to incorporate bread into meat. With wet hands, form the mixture into 12 to 15 meatballs, each of a size somewhere between a tennis ball and a golf ball. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil until almost smoking. Add the meatballs, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan, and cook until deep golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

In a clean pan add the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add all meatballs, cook for 10 minutes and serve.

BASIC TOMATO SAUCE:

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. 

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