Serves 4 to 6
For the Sausage Ricotta Meatballs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper ‘
1-pound ground Italian pork sausage
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the Basil Pomodoro Sauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
One 28-ounce can Italian crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
To prepare the meatballs, preheat the oven to 400° F. Add the breadcrumbs to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse until finely ground. Place breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl. Add the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, fennel, oregano and pepper and stir to combine.
Add the sausage meat and gently stir again. Form meat into roughly 2-inch meatballs and place in a 10” cast iron skillet.
Bake in preheated oven until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove meatballs from the skillet and set aside on a plate. Let skillet cool for about 5 minutes and leave oven on.
For the sauce, return the skillet to medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to low and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook just until garlic is fragrant and nutty but not browning, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes to the skillet and stir. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the basil and sugar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the meatballs back to the skillet and stir to coat with the sauce. Top the meatballs with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and place the preheated oven. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10 minutes.
For a quick and easy way to make this dish, use frozen meatballs of your choice and cook according to the package directions. Set aside.
Add one 28-ounce jar of prepared marinara or spaghetti sauce to a 10″ cast iron skillet and heat over medium high heat. Stir in crushed red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Reduce heat to medium low and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook until sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the basil and sugar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the meatballs to the skillet and stir to coat with the sauce. Top the meatballs with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and place in a 400 F preheated oven. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10 minutes.
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