Pepperoni Meatballs

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 15 min
  • Prep: 25 min
  • Cook: 1 hr 50 min
  • Yield: 25 meatballs
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Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing and drizzling

10 ounces boneless beef short rib, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

10 ounces boneless beef chuck, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

8 ounces beef brisket, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

4 ounces beef fat, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

7 slices white bread, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

6 cloves garlic, chopped

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons Calabrian chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons Calabrian chili paste

3 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon anise seeds

3 teaspoons dried oregano

1/4 cup dry red wine

3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 bunch basil, leaves torn

Grated grana padano, for topping

Crusty bread, for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 2 baking sheets with olive oil; set aside. Mix the beef short rib, chuck, brisket and fat in a large bowl. Add the bread, garlic, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt, chili powder, chili paste, fennel and anise seeds, and oregano; mix until combined. Grind the meat mixture in a meat grinder with a 1/4-inch grind die into a large bowl. Add the wine, ricotta and eggs and mix by hand until combined. (The mixture should be wet and tacky.)
  2. Form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs and put on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the meatballs are brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
  3. Transfer the meatballs to a roasting pan. Pour the crushed tomatoes and their juices over the meatballs, cover with foil and bake until the meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the sauce, 1 hour to 1 hour, 30 minutes. Scatter the basil leaves over the sauce.
  4. Divide the meatballs and sauce among bowls. Top with grana padano and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with bread, if desired.