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

The best meatballs are tender yet firm enough to hold up in sauce. Here, they shine when served in a simple light tomato sauce that’s laced with Swiss chard.

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

  • 1 cup (2 oz./60 g) fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 3/4 lb. (375 g) ground pork
  • 3/4 lb. (375 g) ground veal
  • 2 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

For the sauce:

  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. (500 g) Swiss chard, stems chopped, leaves shredded
      crosswise
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g) golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) water
  • 3 cups (24 fl. oz./750 ml) tomato sauce, preferably homemade
      (see related recipe at left)

  • Crusty bread for serving (optional)

Directions:

To make the meatballs, preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C).

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk and let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, ground veal, soaked bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, parsley, wine, salt and black pepper, then add the egg. Using your hands, mix gently but thoroughly. Form the mixture into 24 small meatballs about the size of a golf ball and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, turning the meatballs once, until browned on both sides, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a large fry 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, increase the heat to medium and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chard leaves, cover and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and red pepper flakes and cook, uncovered, until the chard is tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the raisins and 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.

Scoop the meatballs into a serving bowl or individual small bowls and top with the sauce. Serve immediately with bread for sopping up the sauce. Serves 8 to 12.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti (Weldon Owen, 2011).