On a Roll

These meatballs spice up the menu at Detroit’s Angelina Italian Bistro
Photograph by Joe Vaughn

When Angelina Italian Bistro executive chef Joel Vassallo puts baked Italian meatballs on the menu at the restaurant in the Madison Theatre building overlooking Grand Circus Park and the Detroit Opera House, they sell out within an hour. While they make a great main course, they also perform well as cocktail party hors d’oeuvres.

Baked Italian Meatballs with Rustic Marinara Sauce


(Makes 24 2-ounce balls)

2 pounds ground chuck or sirloin
1 pound ground pork shoulder
1 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2-to-1 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 whole eggs
1 tablespoon freshly ground garlic
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
Salt and pepper, to taste
Rustic marinara as needed (recipe follows)
13x9x2 baking dish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all ingredients except marinara in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with hands until well combined. (If too wet, add more bread crumbs. If too dry, add one more egg.)

Shape into 2-ounce balls and place in baking dish. Meatballs may be packed tightly in the baking dish. Ladle sauce over the top, adding as much or as little as you want. Bake at 375 degrees, uncovered, for 15-18 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Rustic Marinara Sauce

1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped small
2 celery stalks, chopped small
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 6-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dry basil
1 teaspoon dry oregano
2 teaspoons ground garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy pot, lightly sauté the onion, carrot, and celery in the olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and slowly simmer for 20 minutes.

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