Classic Beef Meatballs in Classic Tomato Sauce from The Meatball Shop in NYC

Why are all most decadent and unique bakeries and restaurants only in New York City? New York is home to the legendary brownie shop: Fat Witch Bakery, the famous peanut butter store: Peanut Butter & Co., the classic American dessert and cupcake store: Magnolia Bakery, and my latest discovery….The Meatball Shop!
I’ve never been to The Meatball Shop, but the next time I’m in NYC, I’m stopping by! The idea for their restaurant is brilliant. Specializing meatballs, this restaurant definitely thought outside of the box! Their menu sounds great: Meatball choices include chicken, beef, pork, vegetable, or the “special ball of the day!” In addition, you can choose to pair your meatballs from one of six sauces: classic tomato, spicy meat,  mushroom cream, pesto, parmesan cream, or special. Finally your meatballs and sauce are served “naked” with a side of Focaccia Bread, on a Brioche bun or baguette, or with a salad and veggies.
My mom recently bought The Meatball Shop Cookbook, and this weekend we made the Classic Beef Meatballs with Classic Tomato Sauce.
All I can say is “Wow!” these meatballs are great! They were extremely easy to make and you even get to mix the meat mixture with your hands! The simple part also stems from the fact that you bake the meatballs, instead of pan-frying them on the stove. Frying them on the stove requires more effort since you have to constantly roll the meatballs over to brown them on all sides.
Regarding the beef meatballs, I read that they are the top sellers at the Meatball Shop in NYC. An excerpt from the cookbook reads: “Most traditional meatball recipes call for Parmesan or pecorino cheese. While we’re big fans of these stronger cheeses, we prefer ricotta. It’s our secret weapon.  The mild and creamy consistency of this fresh cheese gives the meatballs a unique, light texture. Beef has a subtle flavor, and the ricotta is a great way to add fat and moisture to the recipe without overpowering flavor of a sharper cheese. These are quick to prep, and baking rather than frying makes this a fast comfort food even during the busiest of weeks.”
In my review of the classic tomato sauce, I was extremely impressed! Honestly, I was going to be lazy and heat up a jar of marinara sauce, but since I didn’t have a jar in my pantry, I was “forced” to make the homemade version. I’m so glad I did because it was easy and delicious. I am wary of homemade tomato sauces because I think they taste bland and are not worth the effort. Not this time….this classic tomato sauce was extremely flavorful and had a perfect blend of Italian seasonings.  According to the cookbook, “The sauce starts with “sweating” of onions (cooking them slowly, until translucent but not brown, to extract as much flavor as possible), and the flavor continues to build from a nice, long, low-heat simmering after the tomatoes are added.”
My only complaint about The Meatball Shop….they don’t have a location in Dallas!
For the Beef Meatballs
Combine ground beef, ricotta, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until incorporated.
Roll mixture into golf ball sized meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), and place into a baking dish, drizzled with olive oil.

Roast meatballs in a 450 degree F oven for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through and have an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

For the Classic Tomato Sauce:
Heat olive oil in large pot (I used a skillet) over medium heat. Add onions, bay leaf (I omitted), oregano, garlic and salt, and cook for 10 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent.

Add the tomato paste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir until sauce boils. Lower the heat and simmer. At this point, I added the meatballs (which I made the day before and refrigerated) and simmered for the next 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti. Serve meatballs and tomato sauce over cooked pasta.

Sprinkle some Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese on top and you are good to go!

Classic Beef Meatballs and Classic Tomato Sauce

Classic Beef Meatballs
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 pounds 80% lean ground beef (we used 93/7% lean)
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano OR 1 tsp. dried
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. ground fennel
4 cups *Classic Tomato Sauce (below)

1. Combine the ground beef, ricotta, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
2. Roll the mixture into round, golf-ball-sized meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. For a perfect sized-ball, use an ice-cream scoop, it will make this process 10x easier. Place the balls in the 9×13 inch baking dish drizzled with olive oil. Be careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.  The meatballs should be touching one another.
3. In a preheated oven set to 450 degrees F, roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165 degrees F.
4. While the meatball are roasting, heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often.
5. When the meatballs are firm and fully cooked, remove from the oven and drain the excess grease from the pan. Add meatballs to sauce and simmer.

* Classic Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1/3 tsp. dried
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tsp. salt or to taste
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 (28-ounce cans) whole plum tomatoes, chopped with their liquid (I halved the recipe and used one 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes and one 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, bay leaf, oregano, garlic and salt, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir constantly until the sauce begins to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour (I simmered for 30 minutes), stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent the sauce on the bottom of the pot from burning. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Yield: about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch meatballs and 7 cups sauce; 4 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs = 1 serving
Recipe from: The Meatball Shop Cookbook by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow with Laura Deen

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