I love this dish because its soul-satisfying, and you're truly able to get a bite of a meatball and pasta with sauce in each bite. This is a bit of a play on the traditional Italian-style pasta. The maccheroni is one of my favorite rustic, homestyle shapes.
Technique tip: This is rustic and doesn't require too much attention, just check for an over-reduction of the sauce; too thick is not good.
Swap option: You can swap the pasta to a dried pasta or the meatballs to ground chicken, turkey or another preferred protein.
For the Neapolitan tomato sauce:1.
Put the chuck beef, onion, garlic, celery, crushed red pepper and oregano in a large Dutch oven over medium heat and roast uncovered until the meat is browned, 6 to 7 minutes.2.
Add the plum tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so the sauce does not burn on the bottom of the pot.3.
Add the canned tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for another hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in the basil and cook for an additional 5 minutes.4.
Remove from heat and purée the sauce using either a food mill or a food processor, and season with salt and pepper.5.
Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator until ready to use (the sauce can hold in the refrigerator for about a week, or up to 1 month if frozen in an airtight container).
For the polpettine:
Put the ground chuck, parsley, soaked white bread, ricotta, garlic, Parmigiano, oregano and eggs in a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon or with your hands using food-safe gloves. Season with salt and pepper (you can also test-cook a small patty to taste for seasoning and adjust from that).
Scoop out a small amount of meatball mixture and roll into small balls, about the size of the tip of your thumb. Store on parchment-lined baking sheets in the refrigerator until chilled all the way through (about 1 hour), then cook according to the directions below.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil (the water should have the salinity of broth).2.
While you wait for the water to boil, in a large pan, warm 3 tablespoons of the butter and 3 tablespoons of the oil, then add the polpettine in a single layer and sauté them until warmed through and browned.3.
Spoon the polpettine into a separate 6- to 8-inch-deep pan (you can use the pan that the tomato sauce was cooked in, if large enough), add the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.4.
Add the pasta to the pan and cook until just shy of al dente (about 75% done), about 3 minutes. Remove and reserve at least 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta (do not rinse it).5.
Increase the heat under the sauce to medium-high, then add the pasta to the pan along with some of the pasta cooking water, a few tablespoons at a time. Stir to completely coat the pasta with the sauce; when you shake the pan, the sauce and pasta should move together.6.
Remove from heat, add the cheese, the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil, and toss until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
Recipe from Peace, Love, and Pasta: Simple and Elegant Recipes from a Chef's Home Kitchen by Scott Conant. Published by Abrams Books 2021.