Lamb Meatballs and Napoli Sauce

30 May

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I acquired these traditional Italian recipes, passed down through generations, from a chef in LA. As per usual, I added my own touches to make this dish sing. The simplicity of the sauce highlights the succulent, herbaceous lamb and everything is in harmony – the pleasant tune of spring.

Time: 30 minutes + simmer Serves: 5

Ingredients


  • Meatballs


  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup cubed bread (I used Udi’s Gluten Free White)
  • milk, enough to cover bread cubes
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • sea salt and black pepper – to taste (about 1/4 tsp each)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large leek, white and light green part only – carefully cleaned and cut into thin half moons
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Sauce


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 a medium-large onion)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • sea salt and black pepper – to taste
  • 8 basil leaves, roughly chopped or chiffonade

How to make it


  • Meatballs


  • Combine bread cubes and milk in a small bowl to soak.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil. Once hot, add leeks and cook for about 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Transfer soaked bread to a large mixing bowl. Discard excess milk any remains. Add lamb, parsley, rosemary, thyme, beaten egg, salt, pepper, and cooled leeks & garlic. Mix just to incorporate.
  • Form mixture into 2-inch balls and set on a lined baking sheet.
  • At this point you can bake them in a preheated oven at 400F for 20 minutes. Or you can braise them in the sauce by allowing them to cook for 25 minutes. Finally, you can pan fry them in batches with a bit of olive oil over medium-high until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
  • I always cook my meatballs, let them cool, then put them on a baking sheet and into the freeze. Once frozen, pop them into a freezer bag or container and you’ll have homemade meatballs waiting for you anytime.
  • Sauce


  • In a medium stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add onions and cook for 5-7 minutes until softened and translucent. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, some salt & pepper and stir. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours. Add basil during last 30 minutes of simmer.
  • Serve meatballs tossed in sauce and spaghetti. Top with shaved Parmesan Reggiano Asiago blend and garnish with small basil leaves.
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