Earlier this week I decided I had to make this great recipe from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. I caught her show where she made the meatballs with sugo (gravy).
The meatballs were amazing!!! Awesome!!!
The caveat…this should have been a weekend meal, not a Monday night meal! They take some time to do, not five hours or anything like that…but at least two hours, of some really serious kitchen time.
Disclaimer: This is my adapted recipe…I didn’t write anything down as I prepared this. So, some quantities may not be exact.
You need to start with the Sugo. As Lidia tells us:
Sugo, or gravy, is a long-cooking sauce that has a big component of meat in it, which releases its flavors as it cooks and transforms the sauce into a more complex and flavorful gravy.
The base for a good sugo is a soffrito—that essential Italian technique of cooking vegetables and aromatics in fat or olive oil slowly over low heat. Italian cuisine uses a soffrito as the start for many dishes—soups, braised meats and pasta sauces. For this sugo the soffrito is made of onions, garlic, carrots, celery and shallots. It is the first thing that goes in the pot with the olive oil.
The sugo can be cooked to the halfway point (which it reaches after about 30 minutes of cooking) in advance. Then, when you are ready with the meatballs, add them to the unfinished sugo and continue to cook together until done. You can also make the meatballs in advance, freeze them, and when you are ready to proceed with the final cooking in the sauce.
The main reason that this is adapted from Lidia’s recipe has to do with quantity. I don’t have room to store huge amounts of frozen sauce…so I had to cut the recipe in thirds.
For the Soffrito:
2 TB Olive Oil
1 Medium onion, run through the food processor until fine, like a paste almost.
1 Shallot, same as the onion
2 Garlic cloves, same as the onion
1 Carrot, same as the onion
1 Celery stalk, same as the onion.
2 Bay leaves
¼ cup tomato paste
Run the onion and shallot through the food processor. Set aside. Run the carrot and celery through the food processor. The garlic can be pushed through a press.
In a large skillet heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the onion/shallot mixture. Stir for two minutes until the onions are sizzling. Add the garlic in a hot spot of the pan, as the aroma is released, stir into the onions so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the carrot/celery mixture. Stir together and cook for 4-6 minutes, until everything is starting to dry out. Lower heat to prevent burning, if necessary.
For the Sugo:
1 can (14 oz) of whole, peeled tomatoes, run through the food processor to form a thick sauce.
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 Cinnamon stick
1 tsp dried thyme
Pinch or two of red pepper flakes
At this point in the soffrito, add the processed whole tomatoes and tomato sauce, broth, cinnamon stick, thyme, red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Allow pan to simmer for an hour, stirring every 20 minutes. I left the pan covered, but slightly ajar to allow the sugo to reduce.
Now, while the sugo is cooking, we make the meatballs!
1 lb ground turkey
1 TB olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
½ tsp salt
1 slice of bread soaked in milk, then squeezed dry, discard milk
1 large egg
Fresh black pepper
½ cup golden raisins, soaked in water, then squeezed dry, discard water
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
Small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Form meatballs to your preferred size. I have a small ice cream scoop that I used, it was perfect. The meatballs when done, could be cut into about three bite sized pieces.
So, form all the meatballs, be gentle, don’t handle them too much. Once formed, the meatballs need to be dusted in flour. Place a cup or two of flour in a bowl. Add a few meatballs at a time, gently toss to coat with flour, tap to remove excess flour.
Meanwhile, in a second skillet, add vegetable oil, filling about 1/3 full. Turn heat to high. When HOT, start adding your meatballs, gently, cautiously. Watch the oil level, you don’t want to overflow and cause major troubles!
Allow to cook for about two minutes on one side, then turn over and get the second side….you are only doing this to cook the outside of the meatballs. When done, remove to a paper towel lined plate. Continue until all the meatballs are cooked.
About this time, your sugo will have cooked for an hour. Now, gently lay your meatballs into the sugo. Spoon some sugo over the meatballs so they are coated. Add some water if the sugo doesn’t come to at least ½ way up the meatballs. Cover the pan and allow to slowly simmer for about 30 minutes.
Serve with spaghetti and a sprinkle of parmesan:
As I mentioned the meatballs were amazing! The turkey and pinenuts…the raisins become these plump little things full of flavor. Really great! The sugo….was nice, but didn’t have a great depth of flavor or richness you would expect. So the recommendation….make your favorite red sauce/gravy, and put the meatballs in there to cook. This recipe gives you enough meatballs and sugo for a four people. I have about half in the freezer!