- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus additional
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound 80 percent lean ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 (24-ounce) jar tomato-basil sauce or marinara
- 18 party-size potato rolls or slider buns
- Whole fresh basil leaves
- Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute more. Stir in crushed fennel seed and red pepper; remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat oven to 450F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine egg, breadcrumbs, Pecorino, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in cooled onion mixture, add beef and pork; combine gently by hand. Add 1/4 cup water and combine gently again. Roll into 18 meatballs; arrange on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes.
- Bring sauce to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add cooked meatballs; stir gently. Arrange sliced buns on a platter; place a basil leaf on each bottom half. Top with meatballs, and sprinkle with additional Pecorino, if desired.
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