Note: Adapted from "A16: Food + Wine," by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren with Kate Leahy. Grana is an Italian cow's milk cheese similar to but less expensive than Parmigiano-Reggiano; it's available at many cheese shops, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods markets. You can substitute Parmigiano. A meat grinder or food processor is needed for this recipe.
10 ounces boneless pork shoulder, about 1 1/3 cups ground
10 ounces beef chuck, about 1 1/3 cups ground
6 ounces day-old country bread
2 ounces pork fat, finely chopped
2 ounces prosciutto (4 to 5 slices), chilled in the freezer for 15 minutes and then finely chopped
1 cup loosely packed, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
2/3 cup fresh ricotta, drained if necessary (if sitting in whey, drain overnight in cheesecloth)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes with juice
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Block of grana for grating
Best-quality olive oil for finishing
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread, pork fat, prosciutto, parsley, 2 teaspoons salt, oregano, fennel seeds and chile flakes and mix with your hands just until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs and milk just enough to break up any large curds of ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the ground meat mixture and mix lightly with your hands just until incorporated. The mixture should feel wet and tacky. Pinch off a small piece, flatten it into a disk, and cook it in a small sauté pan. Taste and adjust the mixture's seasoning with salt, if needed.
3. Form the mixture into 1 1/2 -inch balls, each weighing about 2 ounces, and place on the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 30 meatballs.
4. Bake, rotating the sheets once from front to back, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the meatballs are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees.
5. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining salt, and then pass the tomatoes and their juices through a food mill fitted with the medium plate. Alternatively, put the entire can of tomatoes and salt in a large bowl, don an apron and squeeze the tomatoes into small pieces with your hands.
6. Pack the meatballs into 1 large roasting pan or 2 smaller roasting pans. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and braise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the tomato sauce.
7. Remove the pans from the oven and uncover. Distribute the basil leaves throughout the sauce.
8. For each serving, ladle the meatballs with some of the sauce into a warmed bowl. Grate the grana over the top, drizzle with olive oil to finish and serve immediately.