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Grilled Italian Meatballs

By Chef John Ash

Of course there are countless variations on this theme but this is a good reliable version. You can grill these on a traditional grill or use a stove top ridged grill pan. They can be made ahead and warmed for serving. To make it easy you can use a commercial marinara or make my Grandmother’s version following. These are great to snack on while watching the big game and enjoying a glass or two of Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir.

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    Serves 4

    Total Time 2 hours

    Prep Time 30 minutes

    Difficulty Level Medium


    1 lb ground chuck

    1/2 lb ground pork

    3/4 c fresh bread crumbs

    2 large eggs, lightly beaten

    1/3 c grated Parmesan

    1/3 c grated Pecorino Romano

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

    1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

    Kosher salt to taste

    Freshly ground black pepper

    Olive oil

    Marinara sauce, for dipping

    4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (for the Marinara sauce)

    1 small yellow onion, dice (for the Marinara sauce)

    3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (for the Marinara sauce)

    8 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained and chopped (for the Marinara sauce)

    2 cans (28 oz each) whole peeled tomatoes (for the Marinara sauce)

    2 tsp dried oregano (for the Marinara sauce)

    2 c chicken of vegetable stock or water (for the Marinara sauce)

    Salt to taste (for the Marinara sauce)

    Freshly ground black pepper to taste (for the Marinara sauce)


    1. In a large bowl, mix together chuck, pork, breadcrumbs, eggs, Parmesan, Pecorino, garlic, parsley, and red pepper flakes until thoroughly combined. Roll out meat mixture into balls 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

    2. Season meatballs all over liberally with salt and pepper.

    3. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate.

    4. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate.

    5. Brush meatballs with olive oil and place on grill and cook until well browned all over and cooked through, about 8 minutes total, 2 minutes per side.

    6. Remove meatballs to a platter and let rest for a couple of minutes. Serve with marinara sauce. Serves 6.

    7. My grandmother's Marinara: The idea behind the nautical name for this sauce is that Italian sailors used to make it in a hurry, because they had work to do and could not spend a lot of time stirring and fussing over it. Serve with the meatballs above or for a quick game day snack, cook up your favorite store bought ravioli or tortellini and use tooth picks to dunk in the sauce.

    8. Heat the olive oil in a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook stirring until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add anchovies and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes, until they are soft and melting. Crush the tomatoes with your hands to break them up.

    9. Add the tomatoes and oregano to the pot. Bring to a boil, pour in the stock or water (the sauce will lose a lot of liquid during cooking), and reduce the heat to low. Partially cover the pan to allow steam to escape, and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until you have a thick, rich sauce.

    10. Stir occasionally to prevent tomatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Season to your taste with salt and pepper. Makes 7 cups or so

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