6 thick slices crusty bread
12 ounces ground beef
12 ounces ground pork
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for serving
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup red wine, optional
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
12 fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade, optional
2 pounds rigatoni, cooked al dente
For the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place the bread on a baking sheet. Bake until totally dry, about 30 minutes.
Break the bread into chunks. Pulse in a food processor until the bread turns into crumbs. Throw in the meat into a large mixing bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, milk, parsley, garlic, eggs, salt and some pepper. Use clean hands to mix together until well combined.
Use a scoop to retrieve a small amount of the meat mixture, and roll it in your hands to make meatballs (about 25). Place on a pan and put the pan in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes, just to firm them up.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Working with 8 to 10 meatballs at a time, cook them until brown but not cooked all the way through, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Remove from the pot to a plate while you make the sauce.
For the sauce: Add the garlic and onions to the meatball pot. Stir and cook until the onion begins to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook for another minute. (Just omit this step if you're not using wine.) Add the crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.
Stir the sauce to combine all the ingredients. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce needs more liquid, just add in a little water. Then throw in the parsley, basil and the meat-a-balls! Stir gently, then cover and cook for 20 more minutes, stirring once or twice until the meatballs are cooked through.
Heap the rigatoni on a large platter and pile the meatballs and sauce on the top. Sprinkle on some extra minced parsley and serve with extra grated Parmesan.
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