Meet my latest cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian: Simple, Authentic Recipes for Everyday Cooking. It has just hit the shelves at Williams-Sonoma stores, and will be available on Amazon as of December 6. Among other things, the book has one of those hip, cushioned, jacket-less covers that we’ve been seeing more of lately (aesthetically pleasing but also practical because you can easily wipe away splatters). I can’t take credit for that. For that I tip my hat to Weldon Owen, the publisher, which makes many of Williams-Sonoma’s gorgeous books. Nor can I claim credit for the dozens of luscious photos that fill the book’s pages. That is the work of food photographer Maren Caruso.
Some of Maren Caruso’s beautiful images from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian
But I did create the more than 100 recipes that comprise the book, and I love every last one of them, starting with the cover recipe: Polpette in Sugo con la Bietola (Meatballs in Swiss-Chard Tomato Sauce). Incidentally, these meatballs are also the subject of this week’s Family Dish on the Washington Post’s All We Can Eat blog.
This recipe puts a contemporary twist on a classic. Instead of frying the meatballs I bake them, and then simmer them in a savory tomato sauce to which I’ve added braised Swiss chard and a handful of golden raisins for a touch of sweetness. Right now is a good time to make this recipe, as there is lots of beautiful chard at many farmers’ markets. Besides—let’s face it—when isn’t it a good time to make meatballs?
Before I get to the recipe, I’d like to share a few links to blogs and other publications that have already given a shout-out to the book:
* Bloggers Olga at Mango & Tomato and Cecilia at One Vanilla Bean on Pistachio Gelato with Shaved Chocolate
* Heather, aka Farm Girl Gourmet, on Beet Gratin with Fontina and Walnuts
* Jackie Burrell at The San Jose Mercury News on the comforting appeal of rustic cuisine
* Faye Levy at The Jerusalem Post on eating your greens
Please check back in the coming weeks for more recipes from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian. Now go make these meatballs!
From Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian: Simple Authentic Recipes for Everyday Cooking
You can serve these tender meatballs with or without spaghetti—your choice. We enjoy them on their own, with good crusty bread and a simple salad on the side. To drink, try a light red, such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Valpolicella.
- For the meatballs:
- 1 cup (2 ounces) fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons skim milk
- 3/4 pound ground pork
- 3/4 pound ground veal
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- For the sauce:
- 2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound Swiss chard, rinsed but not dried, stems chopped, leaves shredded crosswise
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 3 cups plain tomato sauce (preferably homemade)
To make the meatballs, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk and let stand 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the pork and veal, soaked breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, parsley, wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Form into 18 medium or 24 small meatballs and arrange them on an ungreased rimmed baking sheet. Bake, turning the meatballs once, until browned on both sides, about 30 minutes.
To make the sauce, in a large frying pan over medium-low heat, warm the garlic in the olive oil, stirring often, until it begins to release its fragrance, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chard stems, raise the heat to medium, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the leaves and any water still clinging to them, cover, and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon and the red pepper flakes and cook, uncovered, until the chard is tender, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the raisins and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook until the raisins are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the meatballs, cover, and simmer gently so the meatballs will absorb some of the sauce, about 10 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if you like.
Scoop the meatballs into a swerving bowl or individual bowls, top with the sauce, and serve.