Why choose between luscious meatballs and a rich ragù? This recipe, a specialty at Don Angie in New York City, offers the best of both worlds. Chef Rito crumbles her nonna’s meatballs into Amatriciana sauce with plenty of cheese for a rich, soulful dish that sings with the true flavors of Italian-American home cooking.
Roasted Garlic Purée: Preheat oven to 300 F. Slice off the top of the garlic bulb, just enough to expose the cloves. Place in a small baking dish, cut side down, and add enough vegetable oil to come halfway up the garlic. Roast in the oven until cloves are golden and soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and set aside until cool, 20 minutes. Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Press the cloves through the mesh with your hands, a bench scraper, or spoon to catch any tough fibers or skin. Set aside. Makes about ¼ cup Roasted Garlic Purée. (Note: You can roast several heads of garlic at a time and store the purée in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.)
Amatriciana Sauce: Cut guanciale into a small dice and place in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Sauté until fat begins to render, 3–4 minutes; reduce heat to low. Meanwhile, dice the onion (the pieces should be the same size as the guanciale). When the guanciale has turned golden brown and rendered some fat, add the onions, along with the red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Continue to sauté until the fat is mostly rendered, the meat is browned, and the onions are soft and translucent, 3-4 more minutes. To the pot, add the puréed tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until slightly thickened, 25–30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs.
Meatballs: Preheat oven to 450 F. Place bread in a bowl and add the milk; set aside to soak. Next, place puréed onion onto a clean kitchen towel. Wrap tightly, then wring the towel to squeeze out the liquid; set the onion aside. Finely chop the parsley leaves. Squeeze the milk out of the bread (with a towel, as with the onions, or using your hands); discard milk. Place bread in a large mixing bowl, along with veal, beef, Parmigiano, Pecorino, onions, parsley, Roasted Garlic Purée, and the egg. Mix with your hands until just combined. Season with several turns of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray or a bit of neutral oil. Use a large ice cream scoop to portion the meatball mixture. With lightly oiled hands, shape the mixture into balls and place them, evenly spaced, on the baking sheet; you should have about 12 meatballs. Bake for 12 minutes.
Pasta assembly: Remove meatballs from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle, 5–10 minutes. Remove sauce from heat. Break each meatball into 3 or 4 pieces and add to the sauce. Stir to combine. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt so the water tastes as salty as the ocean. Add the linguine to the boiling water and cook until the pasta is al dente, but still a bit firm in the center. (Keep in mind that the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce.) Meanwhile, bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Drain pasta and add to the boiling sauce. Stir until all of the noodles are coated; then add butter, Parmigiano, and Pecorino. Stir to melt the butter and both cheeses. Serve immediately, family-style, with additional Parmigiano and Pecorino at the table.