Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bucatini All'Amatriciana with Spicy Fontina Meatballs

This recipe is full of secrets.  Spicy little secrets.  Cheesy little secrets.  Delicious little secrets.  Fontina cheese oozes out of the meatballs to reveal a hidden center.  It doesn't end there.  The Amatriciana sauce is full of it's own secrets:  spicy toasted red pepper flakes, meaty chunks of pancetta, and handfuls of Romano cheese.  The end result is a very cheesy, slightly spicy, robust version of spaghetti and meatballs that will have everyone in your family singing your praises and asking for seconds.

In her cookbook, Giada notes that her Aunt Raffy likes to add a bit of wine to the simmering tomato sauce.  I tend to agree with Raffy on this one and added about 1 cup of white wine to my sauce as it was simmering.  Giada's recipe also calls for smoked mozzarella for stuffing the meatballs, but I'm not real fond of smoky cheese so I opted for creamy Fontina.
Yummy cheese oozing out of the baked meatballs

Bucatini All'Amatriciana with Spicy Fontina Meatballs
Adapted from Giada at Home
Serves 4-6

2 Tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, diced 
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 (14 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Optional: About 1 cup wine (I used white)

1 small onion, grated
3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Italian-style seasoned dried bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 tablespoons ketchup
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground veal
2 ounces fontina cheese, cubed into 16 -1/2"- cubes

1 pound percatelli or other long pasta

For the sauce: In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-heat.  Add the pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, 5-7 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and set aside.

Add the onion to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, and the cooked pancetta.  Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the Pecorino Romano cheese and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

For the meatballs: Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the onion, 1/2 cup of the parsley, 2/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the bread crumbs, egg, ketchup, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Add the beef and veal.  Using your hands, combine the ingredients gently but thoroughly.  Shape the meat mixture into 16 1-1/2-inch-diameter meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Make a depression in the center of each meatball and place a cube of fontina inside.  Re-form the meatball so that the fontina is completely covered with the meat mixture.

Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 11 minutes (depending on the type of pasta used). 

Drain the pasta and place in a large serving bowl.  Add the sauce.  Toss gently and season with salt and pepper, if needed.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cu parsley and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.  Put the meatballs in a separate bowl and serve alongside the pasta.
Notes/Results:  This recipe is the ultimate in cheesy as there is quite a bit of cheese in both the sauce and the meatballs. We all loved biting into the meatballs and tasting that cheesy center.  A good thing for sure! The sauce is slightly spicy which is a welcome break from the norm.  Of course, the meaty chunks of pancetta in the sauce were as tasty as can be.  This is a keeper recipe that I would be happy to make again. 

Now Celebrating the Recipes of Giada De Laurentiis

The First Sunday of Each Month @ Brenda's Canadian Kitchen


  1. Kim, Thank you so much for the nice comment on my blog. I had lost interest in so much when I had the flu and damn - it seems like I just got over a cold a month or so ago. But the thing with Kobe is heart breaking as he's our little boy. He's just listless, sitting around and not eating. I will be glad to get to the vet again on Monday.

    About your fabulous looking dish here.....You are my hero when it comes to Giada these days! That looks mouth watering, count me in for a big plate please!


  2. I like spicy secrets. Cheesy ones are fun too. But spicy, cheesy meatballs are even better! I MUST make these meatballs!

  3. You can't have too much cheese.

  4. I love amatriciana sauce and to serve it with meatballs...that's a match made in comfort food heaven!

  5. Kim, you make the very best recipes - I'm starving now!!!!!!

  6. I agree, Kim, you do make the best recipes! I have so many of yours bookmarked and I'm still eating that oatmeal by the way, lol. Going to have a bowl in a few minutes. :o) This looks fabulous, I can never go wrong with Giada. I have a hard time finding smoky cheese so I'd go with the Fontina too. Thank you so much for sharing with Cookbook Sundays!

  7. Meat filled with cheese? I'm in! Looks delish :)

  8. Now that's what I'm talking about!!! :)

  9. That is just sexy food. That's all there is to day.

  10. The fontina convinced me. This is the perfect month for spicy little secrets in the sauce and meatballs.

  11. This looks wonderful, I do not believe I have eaten Fontina cheese. Something new to try!

  12. halleluiah! that looks amazing! cheesy meatballs, yum! i just love fontina cheese, it might be my new favorite these days!

  13. That is a thing of beauty...I have to cook for a crowd next month on this a show stopper?

  14. I'm speechless! I don't know which to grab for first. A crying towel because I can't have just one of those meatballs or should I jump for joy because everything looks stupendous!!!

    I'm doing both...Thanks for sharing, Kim...

  15. I like a good amatriciana sauce even though I don't use a lot of red pepper in my cooking. Those meatballs are right up my alley, too.

  16. Love Giada, love meatballs, love fontina, love pasta! :)

  17. Yum! If I had channeled my inner Italian for this week, this would have been the recipe I picked. You can't go wrong with cheesy, spicy goodness. ;-)

  18. Oh my goodness! I KNOW that my family (myself included) will love this. Great recipe! Spaghetti and meatballs on steroids...

    Thanks for posting!

  19. I made this a couple weeks ago for my birthday but I used the smoked mozzarella simply because I think it makes the meatballs all the more addictive. I add in a bit of wine to the sauce too. A fabulous dinner and your photos have me craving it again.

  20. Don't you just love Aunt Raffy and Giada together. They're quite a pair.

  21. Pure comfort food...I love it! I love pasta dishes and especially red sauce so it is always nice to have a way to spice it up a little for a change! Lately I am adicted to Emerils Vodka is spendy so I have to get back to making my own.

  22. I'm always amused when she has Aunt Raffy on. They do disagree on method, for sure. :) I saw this show, too.
    The "secret" fontina cheese in these meatballs is a killer idea!

  23. Mmm, great comfort food! I had my eye on that recipe too. Absolutely delicious!

  24. As I was reading this I was totally hooked on the fontina cheese oozing out of the meatballs. Then when I got to the bit where you mentioned Giada uses smoked mozzarella, I thought "oh, yeah" that's totally me - I love smoked cheese. Then you got me back to the fontina. And then it occurred to me, I could make half and half and have the best of both worlds - I'm definitely making this :-)
    Sue xo

  25. I am not a big fan of smoked mozzerella either, so I like how you used fontina. I might use goat cheese--but any cheese would be good! Yay for another Giada recipe! :-)

  26. I like the kind of 'secrets' that are hidden in this dish. Wow, you sure have found the winning Giada recipes for the IHCC group, Kim! I've saved every one of them that you've submitted. I even bought bucatini at Trader Joe's this week to make this. That cheese and pancetta and red pepper flakes won my heart! I might even make half a batch with ground turkey from an Ina/Mario Batali combo recipe and see how that works for the weight loss goal still going on. Stay warm in Kentucky; snow today here!


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