In a large bowl add the bread slices and milk. Let sit until the bread is soaked through, then squeeze dry. Crumble and tear the soaked bread into smaller pieces and process in the food processor, using quick pulses, to yield 4 cups soaked crumbs.
Mix the crumbs in a bowl with the eggs, cheese, herbs, and garlic, adding salt and pepper, to taste. Form into round balls about 2 inches in diameter. Set aside on a rack or plate to dry for about 15 to 20 minutes.
In a saucepan or deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil to frying temperature, about 360 degrees F, and fry the bread balls until brown on all sides. Remove the balls as they brown and drain on a rack covered with paper towels.
Have the tomato sauce ready. Arrange the balls on a platter and lightly cover with sauce. Serve immediately.
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 until the carrot is quite soft, about 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and their juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer until as thick as hot cereal, about 30 minutes. Season with salt, to taste.
This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.
Yield: 4 cups
Recipe copyright Mario Batali, 2002. All Rights Reserved.