Big Beef Meatballs with Bucatini

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 50 min
  • Prep: 25 min
  • Cook: 25 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin

2 small to medium yellow onion, 1 grated and 1 finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped, divided

1 egg

1/2 to 2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs, a couple of overflowing handfuls

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus some to pass at table

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or nutmeg

3 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped sage leaves, 4 to 6 sprigs

A couple generous handfuls flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling

1 pound bucatini (thick, hollow spaghetti)

1/4 pound pancetta, chopped

12 baby portobello caps, (crimini mushrooms), chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine, eyeball it

1 cup, (8 ounces), beef stock

1 (28-ounce), can crushed tomatoes, Sam Marzano if available 


  1. Preheat 400 degrees F. Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Mix meat with the grated onion, 3 cloves chopped garlic, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, allspice, capers, sage, a handful of the chopped parsley, salt and pepper and a healthy drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Mix meat, score the meat into 4 sections and make 3 very large balls from each section. Arrange the 12 balls on a nonstick cookie sheet and roast 15 minutes until firm but not hard.
  3. Drop bucatini in salted boiling water to cook off. Drain.
  4. Add another tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet and the pancetta. Cook 3 to 4 minutes then add the remaining garlic and mushrooms to the pan and cook 5 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add remaining chopped onion and deglaze the pan with wine, cook off 1 minute, add in stock and whisk up remaining drippings. Stir in the tomatoes and season sauce with salt and pepper, if necessary. Stir in parsley. Simmer 5 minutes.
  5. Toss pasta with half the sauce. Remove balls from oven and add to remaining sauce and turn to coat. Serve large balls, 3 per person, along side pasta. Spoon any remaining sauce over the pasta. Pass extra cheese at the tables.
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