Ciao, Rustic Italian!

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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!

Makes 6 servings

Polpette in Sugo con la Bietola (Meatballs in Swiss Chard-Tomato Sauce)

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.

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26 Responses to Ciao, Rustic Italian!

  1. Alicia Sokol October 30, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Congratulations on your latest book, Domenica! I look forward to checking it out…the recipes sound to be like the rest of your work (utterly mouth-watering, of course).

    • Domenica October 31, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      Thanks, my friend, for your kind words.

  2. janie October 31, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Sounds delicious and now there’s another “must have ” cookbook!

    • Domenica October 31, 2011 at 11:51 am #

      Thanks, Janie.

  3. nancy baggett October 31, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Oooh, congrats–the book looks terrific! The cover is yummy looking and suitably rustic. I’m sure it will do well.

    • Domenica November 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

      Thanks Nancy!

  4. Sharon Stirling October 31, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    Congrats Domenica!! Your recipes are always fabulous. I can’t wait to check out the new book… and to cook from it!

    • Domenica October 31, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

      Thank you, sweet Sharon. Still hoping we can get together and cook together one day soon…

  5. Elizabeth @Mango_Queen November 1, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    Congratulations, Domenica! Sounds like another wonderful cookbook! And these meatballs look amazing. I must try this one. Your recipes are always 100% terrific. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Cathy November 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    Oh, Domenica! It’s beautiful! Congratulations on another must-have for the cookbook shelf. In the meantime, I really must make these meatballs. They look like a perfect fall meal. See you soon!

  7. Judy Hante November 2, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    This looks so yummy and hearty! My family doesn’t eat pork, and I’m not certain if I’ll find ground veal in my grocery, but maybe I’ll try a mix of ground beef and ground turkey. What do you think?

    • Domenica November 2, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

      I think beef and turkey would be fine, or maybe even a little ground lamb mixed in. That would go well with the chard and the sultanas.

  8. Judy Hante November 2, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Couple of typos (no impact on recipe): “with our without spaghetti” and “swerving bowl” Sorry, I honestly don’t look for them, my eye just catches them 🙂

    • Domenica November 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

      I always appreciate catches like this, Judy. Thanks. (I wonder what a “swerving” bowl is…sounds like it might be a fun new way to serve food. ; )

  9. foodwanderings November 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Hi Domenica, Just wanted to drop by and say Congratulations. Loved seeing that a review of your new cookbook appeared in the Jerusalem Post! 🙂 Going to check the link in a sec. Shulie

    • Domenica November 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

      Thank you, Shulie.

  10. Janine at Rustic Kitchen November 4, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Well, at lunch I ran to the Williams-Michigan store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago… and your book was not there yet! I will exercise my patience muscles. Congrats.

    • Domenica November 9, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

      Janine, your comment somehow landed in my spam, so apologies for the delayed reply. I wonder if the book has a different release date in the Midwest, though that doesn’t make much sense, does it? I would ask them and see when they are getting it in (now I am curious!). I look forward to hearing what you think. Cheers, D

  11. Jamie November 12, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Domenica, congratulations! This is very exciting! And what a gorgeous book! The photos are beautiful and I can’t wait to discover the recipes! I love your first book which I have been reading (but still not cooked from for all the traveling I’ve been doing 🙁 Now I need to absolutely!

  12. Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet November 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Wow! How did I miss the shout out? Thanks so much for including me in on this post Domenica! That beet gratin still calls my name! Loved it! Incredible Book!


  13. Terry December 2, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Amazon has two Rustic Italian books authored by you. One is the Williams Sonoma and the other is just called Rustic Italian. Are they the same book? As much as I enjoy your books, I don’t need two of the same one!

    • Domenica December 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

      Hi Terry. You want Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, which is authored by me. Coincidentally, and confusingly, there was another cookbook called Rustic Italian that was also released this fall, but that one is by another author. Thanks for asking, and I’m glad you are enjoying my books. Let me know what you cook from WS Rustic Italian…Cheers, Domenica

  14. Lora @cakeduchess December 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Wow Domenica! This will be a Christmas gift to myself:)Auguri cara. Sei incredibile!xx

  15. Hugh Morton June 6, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Here it is nine months later from the original post. I made this yesterday. The meatballs were the best I’ve made and tried. I’ve tried a lot. We had this over spaghetti as suggested.

    This is a great dish if you have a garden full of chard, as I did.

    Thanks for posting Domenica!

    Hugh in Dallas

    • Domenica June 6, 2012 at 8:56 am #

      Hugh, I can’t thank you enough for your kind comment. It made my day. It really warms my heart to hear from cooks who are cooking from my books and enjoying the results. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and to post your comment. Lucky you–a garden full of chard! One of my other favorite chard recipes is the Swiss chard and potatoes recipe from Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy–essentially chard and potatoes cooked on the stovetop with garlic and olive oil. A favorite since childhood!

  16. Hugh Morton June 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    Well, the chard keeps giving, so today is round two of meatballs and chard. Next up I’ll try your chard and potatoes.

    It sounds excellent to me.

    Hugh in Dallas

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