Put a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375°F. Line a large rimmed baking pan with parchment or a nonstick liner and set aside.
Put the breadcrumbs and milk in a large mixing bowl, stir to blend, and
set aside for 5 minutes. With your hands, squeeze and mash the
breadcrumbs so that they make a smooth paste. Add the egg and whisk,
then add the Parmigiano, ketchup, parsley, oregano, thyme, half the
onion, half the garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to
With your hands, break the beef into small chunks and add to the bowl.
Mix gently but thoroughly; overmixing will make the meatballs tough and
dry. When all the ingredients are evenly combined, shape the mixture
into 6 balls and arrange on the baking sheet.
Bake until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F at the center of a meatball, 40 to 45 minutes.
While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce. Heat the olive
oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining half onion
and 1 teaspoon salt and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring
frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining half
garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bring
to a boil, and lower the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer.
stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick sauce,
10 to 15
minutes. Taste the sauce and add a pinch or two of sugar if it seems too
tangy, and season with more salt if necessary. Stir in the basil and
keep warm until the meatballs come out of the oven.
Spoon the sauce
generously over the meatballs and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes to
blend the flavors. Garnish with a sprinkling of Parmigiano.
Add some capers, anchovies, and olive oil to the marinara for a puttanesca sauce or a pinch of chile flakes for arrabiata sauce.
Slice up any leftover meatballs, reheat in the sauce. and put them in
the middle of a good crusty roll. Then top with mozzarella or provolone.
Reprinted with permission from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food by Sam Mogannam & Dabney Gough, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.