Marvelous Meatballs — With A New California Whole Wheat Pasta

A plethora of meatballs to dig into.

“I Love Meatballs!”

That’s the fun title of the newest cookbook (Andrews McMeel) by the ever prolific New York cooking instructor, Rick Rogers, of which I recently received a review copy.

But it might also very well be a mantra we would all shout happily from the rafters.

Come on, say it with me now: I. LOVE. Meatballs.

If that doesn’t put a big smile on your face, I don’t know what will.

Rogers circles the globe with is recipes for meatballs in this book. You’ll find everything from “Beef Meatballs in Pho” to “Persian Meatballs in Pomegranate and Walnut Sauce” to “Chinese Rice-Crusted Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Dip.”

I gravitated to the “Ziti with Sausage Meatballs and Broccolini.” The meatballs are actually made from ground pork and sweet Italian sausages that have been removed from their casings. Mix in shredded onion, egg, and milk-soaked bread crumbs for added moisture.  The results are juicy, fluffy meatballs perfect for nestling in pasta.

Speaking of which, I used fusilli rather than the ziti called for in the recipe. That’s because I received a sample of the new Community Grains fusilli made in small batches from 100 percent whole grain and whole milled hard amber durum wheat grown in California.

Fusilli -- made from wheat grown right here in California.

If you’re unfamiliar with Community Grains, it was founded by Bob Klein, owner of Oliveto restaurant in Oakland. The restaurant, known for its use of local fish, meat and produce, set out to make its own pasta from local wheat, too.

Look for the pastas at select Northern California stores.

You can now find the dried pasta at such Bay Area stores as Draeger’s, the Pasta Shop, Bi-Rite and most Northern California Whole Foods. It’s also available online at Market Hall Foods. It retails for $7 for an 8-ounce or 10-ounce box, depending upon the variety.

The fusilli, with its delicate wheat taste and sturdy structure, was the perfect foil for the olive oil-based sauce and the slightly bitter broccolini.

Ziti (or Fusilli) with Sausage Meatballs

(Serves 4 to 6)

For meatballs:

3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/3 cup whole milk

12 ounces sweet Italian pork sausage, casings removed

8 ounces ground pork

1 small onion, shredded on the large holes of a box grater

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For rest of the pasta dish:

1 pound ziti, rigatoni or fusilli

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic (or 3 cloves spring garlic plus tender shoots), thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste

1 pound broccolini (about 2 bunches), cut into 2-inch lengths

1 cup canned reduced sodium chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper

1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


To make the meatballs, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.

Soak bread crumbs in the milk in a medium bowl until softened, about 3 minutes. Add sausage, ground pork, onion, egg, salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape sausage mixture into 18 equal meatballs. Arrange on the baking sheet. Bake until browned and the meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add ziti and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain well. Return ziti to the pot.

While pasta is cooking, combine oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is golden but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the anchovy paste. Add broccolini and stir well. Add meatballs, broth, and hot pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccolini is tender, about 5 minutes.

Add broccolini mixture to the ziti in the pot. Add Parmesan and mix well. Season with salt. Serve hot with additional Parmesan passed on the side.

Adapted from “I Love Meatballs” by Rick Rodgers

More Meatballs to Try: The Meat Ball Shop’s Bouillabaisse Meaballs

And: Kokkari’s Spiced Meatballs with Green Olive and Tomato Sauce

And: A16’s Monday Meatballs

And: Chicken Meatball Soup

Plus: Dinner at Oliveto

And: Community Grains Three-Hour Polenta

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