Rossella Rago's Anelletti with Tiny Meatballs

What Nonna made me when I begged for SpaghettiOs.

Rossella Rago's Aneletti

Evi Abeler

Excerpted with permission from Cooking with Nonna: Sunday Dinners with La Famiglia. Copyrighted material, property of Harper Horizon.

I have a confession. When I was little I tried to get Nonna Romana to make me SpaghettiOs. I'm not proud of it, but it is what it is. Nonna never gave in, but she was always ready with a solution. Thank God for Sicilian anelletti pasta, which are perfect little rings to recreate this Italian American comfort food. Nonna loved to get me involved in making this dish. She would make the sauce from scratch and then cook the pasta and have me roll all the mini meatballs alongside her! Over the years rolling meatballs with Nonna has become my therapy, especially when we use them to make one of my childhood favorites!

Rossella Rago's Anelletti with Tiny Meatballs

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

Excerpted with permission from Cooking with Nonna: Sunday Dinners with La Famiglia. Copyrighted material, property of Harper Horizon.

Ingredients

  • For the meatballs
  • 1 pound meatloaf mix (equal parts or any combination of ground veal, pork, and beef)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or shaved
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
  • For the sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 24 ounces passata or tomato purée
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 pound dried anelletti
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Special Equipment

Method

  1. To make the meatballs:

    In a large mixing bowl, add the meatloaf mix, eggs, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, bread crumbs, garlic, and basil. Combine with your hands until you have a uniform mixture. Roll into meatballs about 1/2 inch in diameter.

  2. To make the sauce:

    In a large sauté pan, heat the oil on medium. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste, passata or tomato purée, and salt. Fill the tomato jar or can with 1/2 cup of water. Rinse it out and add the water to the pan.

  3. To assemble the dish:

    Bring the sauce to a boil and add the meatballs. Return the sauce to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drop the pasta into a large pot of generously salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and add the pasta to the meatballs and sauce. Toss for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve in warm bowls with a generous sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.