Family Meal: Rigatoni and Meatballs

Rigatoni and Meatballs a great family meal

New Weekly Family Meal: Rigatoni and Meatballs

This week, I plopped myself in the middle of my office to tackle the stacks and stacks of recipes that I have saved over the years. Let me tell you, this was an all day affair. I went through every single loose recipe that I have saved since college!

Each food-stained recipe held a different memory. All of the girls-night dinners, wedding showers, babies, and birthdays from over the years seemed to pop into my mind as vividly as the day they happened.

As I lost myself in remembering these events, I also managed to sort the recipes into piles: breakfast, appetizers, main courses, salads, soups, sides; eggs, pastas, risottos; beef, fish, fowl and vegetarian; cakes, frozen treats, wine dinner desserts, and cookies.

Soon enough, all of my old memories were stored safely in plastic cover sheets, hole punched, and laid to rest in their new homes: well-organized, labeled binders.

That is, all except for one. One recipe found its way to our dinner table that night. The Mario Batali recipe for rigatoni and meatballs that I had clipped from an issue of Martha Stewart Magazine years ago happens to serve four — the perfect family meal.

After looking at recipes all day, I was starving! So, pressed for time, I skipped the specialty markets, zipped over to our neighborhood Vons for some ingredients, and began cooking. Deskwork could wait until after the girls were tucked in … I was ready to get into the kitchen!

I made a garden salad to accompany our meatballs and also cut up some extra garden veggies for the girls to eat. They call it a salad, but it usually means a bowl filled with raw veggies minus the dressing and the lettuce. It’s an easy way for me to prepare one side dish that satisfies two palates.

This meatball recipe turned out to be a HUGE success. It was simple to make and so delicious that my family devoured the entire meal in silence, barely taking time between bites to breathe (which, between me and my two lively, talkative girls, is extremely rare). Every ingredient seemed to bloom in a perfect combination of delightful flavors. So, as I sipped Barolo and polished off my last satisfied bite, I made a mental note to not let this recipe get stuck in the back of my new binder but to keep it very much alive in the form of a weekly dinner staple.

Family Meal: Rigatoni and Meatballs

Rigatoni and Meatballs

Serves 4


½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (I left this out for the girls, but no doubt the parsley would add a nice splash of green to the dish)

¼ cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese

2 large eggs

6 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs**

¼ cup milk

1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed

½ cup dry white wine

3 pints marinara sauce (I used 1 ½ portions of my recipe for Aunt Penny’s Marinara)

1 pound rigatoni, cooked


**The best way I’ve found to make fresh breadcrumbs is to use a cheese grater to grate a ciabatta roll or loaf. I hardly ever use dried breadcrumbs. One, fresh just tastes better, and two, since fresh breadcrumbs are fluffier than dried, you can actually use a smaller portion, but still get the same volume for your recipe. Fewer calories + fresh, fluffy deliciousness = a win-win in my book!


In a large bowl, combine ground beef and pork, parsley (if you use it), Parmesan, eggs, breadcrumbs, milk, and salt. Form into 1 ½ inch balls — golf ball size.


Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 6-quart sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs: cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and meatballs.


Add white wine to same pan; deglaze by stirring up browned bits from bottom with a wooden spoon. Reduce wine by half, about 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and meatballs; bring to a simmer. Reduce to medium-low; cook, un-covered, 1 hour, stirring occasionally.


Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to a serving dish. Toss pasta in sauce; serve in a separate dish. Enjoy!