2000s Recipes + Menus

Angelo “Squatty” Coschignano’s Meatballs with Billy’s Sauce

Serves6 to 8
  • Active time:1 hr
  • Start to finish:2 1/2 hr
April 2008
These meatballs are legendary, and for good reason: Three types of meat give them depth, and a meaty, bacon-studded sauce puts them over the top. Learn the story behind this dish in our column, The Recipe.

For sauce

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 dried-porcini bouillon cubes (less than 1 oz)
  • 1 1/2 lb veal neck bones or veal shank
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 5 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 (28-oz) cans peeled whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano

For meatballs

  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 (1-lb) loaf stale Italian bread, crust discarded
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 lb ground veal
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 lb ground beef chuck
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Make sauce:

  • Bring water with bouillon cubes to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring until cubes have dissolved.
  • Pat veal bones dry, then sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook veal bones, turning occasionally, 5 minutes. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until bones are browned on all sides and bacon is golden, about 5 minutes. Add onions and sauté until very soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in basil, parsley, and garlic and sauté until garlic is golden, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in tomatoes with juice, coarsely crushing them, then add tomato paste, wine, sugar, and bouillon water and simmer, stirring until tomato paste has dissolved. Stir in cheese and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 2 hours.
  • Discard veal bones and season sauce with salt and pepper.

Make meatballs:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
  • Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt.
  • Tear bread into large pieces, then soak in milk until very soft, about 5 minutes. Squeeze out and discard excess milk.
  • Mix together bread, garlic paste, 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and remaining ingredients except oil in a large bowl with your hands, breaking up any large pieces of bread, until combined well. Form meat mixture into 18 (2-inch) balls with dampened hands.
  • Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then brown meatballs in 2 batches, turning frequently, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.
  • Arrange meatballs in 1 layer in a 3-quart shallow baking dish. Cover with 1 quart sauce (reserve remainder for another use), then cover dish tightly with foil and bake until meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Cooks’ note: Sauce can be made 3 days ahead and chilled, uncovered, until cool, then covered, or frozen in an airtight container up to 1 month.
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