From Tieghan: My brother Creighton is the most meat-loving human I know. Without a doubt, one of his favorite meals on earth is one Nonnie’s meatloaf. I kid you not, he talks about this meatloaf all the time. Fortunately, I know exactly why it’s so dang good. When Nonnie first told me, I was like, “Wait, what?” She takes two pieces of white bread (it has to be white bread), runs the slices under water, wrings out the water, and mixes the damp bread into her meat. At first this sounded so bizarre to me, but thinking about it later, it all started to make sense. Moist bread = moist meatloaf = success! I applied this idea to my meatball recipe (swapping the water for milk) and, in turn, created the yummiest meatballs ever. Thank you to Creighton and Nonnie for helping me create this recipe!
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 slices white bread
- 1/2 cup whole milk or water, as needed
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, crushed with your hands
- 1/4 cup oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
- 4 picked jalapeño slices (optional)
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, plus more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1/2 cup cubed provolone cheese
- cooked pasta, for serving
- fresh basil and oregano, chopped, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 450 F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with olive oil.
- Place the bread in a small bowl. Pour over enough milk to moisten the bread and let it soak for 5-10 minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess milk, then crumble the dampened bread into a medium bowl.
- Add the ground beef and egg and mix well with your hands. Grease your hands with a bit of olive oil and roll the meat mixture into ten to twelve 2 tablespoon size balls. Place the meatballs in the prepared baking dish and bake for about 15 minutes, until the meatballs are crisp on the outside but not yet cooked through on the inside.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the wine, crushed tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeño, dried basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and a pinch each of salt and black pepper.
- Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for about 25 minutes more, until the meatballs are cooked through. Remove the foil and sprinkle evenly with the cheeses. Return to the oven, uncovered, and bake until the cheese are melted and golden, about 10 minutes. Serve over your favorite fresh pasta, topped with fresh basil and oregano.
- Note: Sometimes I use spicy Italian sausage instead of ground beef. My family loves the added flavor. You could use chicken sausage too!