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Mia's Meatballs (and Meatball Paninis)
April 2022
Reading time 1 Minute

This is one of my daughter Mia’s favourite recipes, not only to eat but to make

Often you will find us on a Sunday morning preparing this dish together; I have to say it is my favourite time of the week when that happens. The meatballs will be the best you have ever tasted and the secret is definitely the bread soaked in milk, it makes them so tender. I have suggested serving these with pasta, but it also works well with rice, or any leftovers are amazing in a panini.
  • For the Meatballs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 slices of white or brown bread, crusts discarded
  • 200ml milk (whatever you have in the fridge is fine)
  • 500g minced pork
  • 250g minced beef
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 70g finely grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 500g fresh egg tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Sauce
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 8 large basil leaves, torn in half
  • 2 mozzarella balls (125g each), drained, cut into small cubes and refrigerated
  1. Take a medium flat tray and pour in the olive oil. Using your fingertips, spread the oil all over the tray and set aside.
  2. Break the bread into a large bowl and pour over the milk. Using your fingertips, mix the bread
    and milk together, to make a wet paste. Add the minced meats and combine. Now add the parsley, garlic, pecorino, two teaspoons salt and half teaspoon pepper, crack in the egg and use your hand to mix it all together.
  3. Divide into 10 large meatballs, rolling between your palms for 30–40 seconds to become compact. Gently place on the prepared tray. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. (You can leave them overnight if you wish.)
  4. Now for the sauce. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Place in eight meatballs and fry for 15 minutes, gently turning regularly using two tablespoons, ensuring they are browned all over. (Set aside the remaining two meatballs for the sauce.) Switch off the heat and gently transfer the cooked meatballs one by one to a large plate, leaving the oil and juices in the saucepan.
  5. Place the same saucepan back over a medium heat and add the remaining two raw meatballs. Add the crushed garlic, and, using a wooden spoon, break the meatballs into small pieces and fry in the sizzling oil for four minutes. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, torn basil leaves, two teaspoons salt and half teaspoon pepper. Fill one can with hot water and pour it into the saucepan. Stir, then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure you scrape the base of the pan for any caramelised bits.
  6. Reduce the heat to a minimum and carefully place the whole meatballs in the sauce, pouring in any juices left on the plate. Gently stir, making sure the meatballs are completely covered in sauce. Cook for two hours, stirring occasionally, always gently, so you don’t break the meatballs. Switch off the heat.
  7. Fill a large saucepan with four litres of water
    and one tablespoon salt and bring to the boil.
    Add the pasta and cook until al dente, normally one minute less than instructed on the packet. Meanwhile, carefully remove the meatballs from the sauce and keep warm. (If serving with rice, you don’t need to remove the meatballs, you can just spoon them on the rice.)
  8. Drain the pasta and tip into the sauce. Stir for about 20 seconds, ensuring the pasta is well coated. Divide the pasta and meatballs between four warmed plates, with the sauce, and sprinkle over the mozzarella. Enjoy – yum!

For the Meatball Paninis (Serves 2)

2 small ciabatta loaves, or paninis
4–6 Mia’s Meatballs, plus 4–6 tbsp of their sauce, both hot/reheated

  1. Take each bread and cut it in half vertically. Pull out some of the soft crumb from the middle of each half and set aside.
  2. Fill each panino with two to three hot meatballs and two to three tablespoons of the amazing sauce. Take the pieces of bread you set aside and use them to seal the ends of each panino, so the filling doesn’t leak out when you bite into it. Now you are ready to eat!
Gino’s Italian Family Adventure by Gino D’Acampo (Bloomsbury Publishing, £22) is out now. Photography by Haarala Hamilton

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