Meatballs With Green-Peppercorn Sauce

We must be on a meatball kick around here; when we saw this recipe in the weekend Wall St. Journal, we made it the same day. The Wall St. Journal, by the way, recently started publishing a “Weekend Edition” which comes out on Saturdays. It is sort of an expanded version of their “Personal Edition” and includes articles on travel, health, and food. In particular it shares recipes from famous chefs that regular people can make at home on a weekend, often with more recipes for the leftovers to use during the week. We’ve tried several of their recipes and all have been good, some astoundingly so. This meatballs with green-peppercorn sauce is one the astounding ones. When I bothered to look up from the recipe and review WSJ article I was happily surprised to learn that the recipe comes from the kitchen of chefs Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal of San Francisco. Mitchell is one of the jolliest people I’ve ever met (we used to train in Aikido together), and a gifted chef whose whole being exudes a love for great food. He and his brother are chefs not only at Postrio, where Clinton would eat when he came to town, but also now at their own restaurant, Town Hall.

Brined green peppercorns can be hard to find, and while they are the best for this recipe, you can use dried green peppercorns, too. Just add them in at the beginning of cooking and they should soften enough to eat by the time you’re done.

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Meatballs With Green-Peppercorn Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6.

Note, this recipe makes a lot more sauce than we actually needed for the meatballs. But, the sauce is so good, any leftover can be mixed in with rice or pasta.




  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp sherry wine vinegar
  • ½ cup brandy
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup port
  • 2 cups beef stock or chicken stock
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons green peppercorns in brine, drained and crushed
  • Coarse salt, to taste


  • 2 ½-inch thick slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ pound ground veal
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 1½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup olive oil


1 To make the meatballs, soak the bread in milk until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain the milk and squeeze the bread out slightly. In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread, veal, pork, beef, salt, pepper, Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta, egg and parsley. Mix well enough to combine the ingredients, but just enough — if you work the mixture too long your meatballs will become tough. Roll into meatballs the size of golf balls, set on a tray and put in the fridge to firm up.

2 To make the sauce, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the shallots and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the mustard, brandy and sherry vinegar and reduce to half, about 3-4 minutes. If you are using dried peppercorns, add them here.

3 Add the red wine and port and reduce by half, about 15 minutes. Take the meatballs out of the fridge now. Add the stock to the sauce and reduce the mixture by half again, about 20 minutes. If you are using brined green peppercorns add them and salt to taste.

4 Heat the ¼ cup olive oil a large nonstick pan over medium high heat. Fry the meatballs until crispy on the outside and cooked through on the inside, about 12 minutes. Do this in batches so that the meatballs are not crowded. As the batches of meatballs are cooked, transfer them to 300-degree oven to stay warm while you finish cooking the meatballs and sauce.

5 When all the meatballs have been cooked, add them to the sauce and coat them well. Bring to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat and transfer the meatballs to a platter or to plates. Stir the heavy cream into the sauce and serve.

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  1. lindy

    I’ve been enjoying and loving your site with all your mouthwatering photos.

    I too enjoy cooking (& eating)! These meatballs look so delicious !! Thank you for sharing the recipe !! I will love to try this!

  2. I Brown

    Where do you find green peppercorns in brine. I’ve never heard of that.

  3. Elise

    Hi I Brown, green peppercorns in brine look a little like capers, but smaller. I think you would find them in the condiment section of your grocery store, or near where they sell capers. You can also buy them online at

  4. ChezMegane

    I agree, this recipe sounds amazing! My only question is what did you serve with it? rice? veggies? egg noodles?
    Can’t wait to try it!

  5. Elise

    Hi Chez Megane – We served it over rice. In the WSJ, the chefs served it with I think a potato celery root mash. It was wonderful with rice. Bet it would be good over egg noodles too.

  6. johnr

    I tried this a couple days ago, and I just have to say it was amazing. My sauce turned out more purple than red (I think because I used a Malbec wine and strong port), but it was still tasty, and the friends loved it.

  7. Garlicer

    I followed the sauce recipe to the letter and it tasted almost like it was off. There were no full flavours or any identifiable mix of such. The meatballs were so not terrific. I don’t know what I did wrong but the entire recipe was a bland disappointment, it was abominable.
    I used an Auzzy. Red, Cab/Shiraz blend named ‘Long Flat’, the brandy used was French, St Remy Napoleon Brandy and for the Port I used an Auzzy Tawny Port. Perhaps I used a bad combination? I went through each reduction with great care and attention. I did reduce the brandy only slightly, after the alcohol had been cooked off as the recipe did not call for that specifically. The wine and port were added and reduced by half and then added the stock (homemade) and reduced it by half again.
    I use only fresh ingredients; the veal, pork and beef were fresh on the day and I used 35% real cream, which was also purchased the day of cooking.
    I’ve been doing sauces and stocks for many years without too many mistakes or bad sauces so I have to think that either my tastes are far from normal or I screwed something up. Any suggestions?

    Note from Elise: Hi Garlicer, how disappointing! I have no idea what might have gone wrong. We loved this sauce, and the meatballs.

  8. barnacle

    Michael Bauer of the SF Chronicle just wrote about these meatballs and I was so thrilled to find a recipe! He claims they serve them on a bed of mashed potatoes, but if you can add the celery root I imagine it could only be better. Off to the store to buy some peppercorns! Cheers.

    Link to Bauer’s Article:

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