Any Italian-American grandmother worth her Sunday gravy will tell you that to make a light, tender meatball you need two things: lots of eggs and lots of fresh breadcrumbs (and don’t even think of using anything but white sandwich bread).  The addition of ricotta cheese and smoked bacon elevates these all-pork beauties to the sublime.

Pork Meatballs with Ricotta and Bacon

Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen meatballs, serving 8-10

Canola oil, for the pan

1/2 lb. sliced, firm white sandwich bread (8 or 9 slices), trimmed of crust and diced

2 lb. lean ground pork

3 slices thick-cut, lean bacon (applewood smoked, if you can find it), chopped fine

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 c. fresh ricotta cheese

1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. dried oregano

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1 batch Simple Tomato Sauce (or two 28 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed up by hand and lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly oil one large or two small roasting pans.

In a food processor, grind bread cubes into coarse crumbs.  In a large mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs, pork, bacon, eggs, cheese, parsley, oregano, red pepper, and 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.  Use your hands to mix well.  Form into about 3 dozen golf ball-size meatballs and place in roasting pan.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Loosen meatballs from bottom of pan with a spatula, then pour in tomato sauce and shake pan gently to coat meatballs evenly.  Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees, and continue to cook, turning meatballs once or twice, for another 90 minutes or until meatballs are very tender and sauce has thickened.

Leftovers keep in the fridge for 4 days, or can be frozen for up to 3 months.

We like these meatballs served over brown rice with steamed green beans.