IN TOMATO SAUCE
COOK TIME 1 hr 15 mins
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for greasing
2 pounds 80-percent lean ground beef
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup cooked white rice
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
3 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1¼ teaspoons dried oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground fennel
1 small onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
One (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, chopped with their liquid
1 Preheat the oven to 450°. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
2 In a large bowl, combine the beef, ricotta, eggs, rice, parsley, 3 teaspoons
oregano, red pepper flakes and fennel. Season with salt.
3 Divide the meat mixture into 24 golf ball-size meatballs, packing the meat
firmly. Arrange the meatballs evenly in the baking dish, placing them snugly
in rows to form a grid. Bake for 20 minutes, or until firm and an instant-read
thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball reads 165°.
4 In a large pot over medium heat, cook the olive oil, onions, bay leaf, garlic
and the remaining ½ teaspoon oregano, stirring often, until the onions are
softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Add the tomato paste and
continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and, stirring, bring to a
boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every 5 minutes.
Adjust the seasoning as needed and remove the bay leaf.
5 Drain the excess grease from the meatball pan. Pour the tomato sauce
over the meatballs and bake for 15 minutes more.