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Playing Sicilian Meatballs


  • 4 to 5 slices of bread, torn up
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
  • 2 28-ounce cans San Marzano plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (about a handful) flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pint ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn


Serves: 4 servings


Preheat oven to 425F.

In a small bowl, place torn up bread and pour milk over it, set aside to soak.

Drizzle a good amount of EVOO into a roasting pan, then pour in the 2 cans of tomatoes and crush them up with your hands or a potato masher. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside while you prepare the meatballs.

In a large bowl, combine ground sirloin, garlic, parsley, grated Parmigiano, allspice, red pepper flakes, pine nuts, currants, egg and ricotta, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Squeeze out excess milk from the soaking bread (it should be loose and in small pieces) then add it to the meat mixture and mix everything with your hands to combine.

Form 12 baseball-sized balls, each about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and place them on top of the mashed tomatoes in the roasting pan. Transfer to the oven and roast until the meatballs are brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking, chop the hearts of romaine, red onion and orange and toss together in a large bowl with lemon juice, orange zest, about a tablespoon of EVOO, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Remove meatballs from the oven and arrange torn pieces of crusty bread in and around the meatballs and sauce. Top with the torn basil and serve a salad alongside.