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Roasted Meatballs with Garlic Bread

Meatballs in red sauce, just like grandma used to make. But now you can have it in 30 minutes. Served with crusty, buttery garlic bread. What could be better?
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 30 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Roasted Meatballs:

1 cup breadcrumbs

Nutmeg, for grating 

1/2 to 2/3 cup whole milk, eyeball it 

1 pound ground beef, 80/20 

1/2 pound ground pork 

Salt and pepper 

A handful of flat-leaf parsley 

4 fat cloves garlic 

1 cup loosely packed grated Parm 

1 cup loosely packed Pecorino Romano cheese 

1 teaspoon fennel seed or pollen 

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or ground pepperoncini

1 large egg 

4 tablespoons EVOO, plus some for drizzling 



2 tablespoons butter 

2 cloves garlic 

One 14-ounce can whole or crushed Italian tomatoes 

One 24-ounce jar, 3 cups, tomato passata or puree 

A few leaves basil, torn 


A sprinkle of superfine sugar, to taste (see Cook's Note)

Garlic Bread:


4 tablespoons butter 

4 cloves garlic 

A loaf of semolina sesame Italian bread or ciabatta 

About 1 cup grated Parm 

A handful flat-leaf parsley 


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F with rack at center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. For the meatballs: Pour breadcrumbs in a small bowl, add a few grates of nutmeg and douse well with milk. Toss and let the milk absorb.
  3. Place the meats in a large mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper, combine them and make a well. Rip off some parsley tops and finely chop; add to meats. Peel garlic. Grate in garlic with plane or chop by hand into meats. Pour in cheeses, sprinkle on fennel and red pepper flakes. Add egg and EVOO. Roll up sleeves, take off your jewelry. Combine the mixture and quarter the meat. Form each quarter portion into 2 large balls and place on parchment; roast 15 to 18 minutes.
  4. For the sauce: Meanwhile, in a medium Dutch oven or a deep cast-iron skillet heat EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, and melt butter into oil. When it foams, grate in garlic and stir 1 minute. Add canned tomatoes and passata. Break up tomatoes with spoon and bring to a bubble. Stir in basil leaves. Reduce heat on sauce a bit and let it bubble away 15 minutes, breaking sauce up with a paddle or spoon occasionally. Add salt and sugar if needed.
  5. For the garlic bread: While sauce and meatballs are cooking, heat EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, in a small pot or pan over medium heat and melt butter into it. Crush and grate garlic into butter and remove from heat. Split bread and add to oven a rack below the meatballs. Toast 5 minutes. Remove and brush with all the garlic and oil, top with cheese and chop a little parsley to sprinkle on top. Return to oven, warm another 3 minutes to set, remove.
  6. Remove meatballs from oven, drop into sauce and let them roll!
  7. Serve meatballs in rimmed plates or shallow bowls and add cut garlic bread for the mopping.

Cook’s Note

Non-Italian tomatoes are sometimes less sweet so the sauce may need a bit of sugar.