|Let's go to southern Italy!|
"True to our namesake, we gather our inspiration from southern Italy, particularly Campania, the region surrounding Naples. Chef David Taylor oversees the menu, which features fresh pasta, house-butchered and house-cured meats and authentic Neapolitan pizza. Complementing the rustic menu, Wine Director/owner Shelley Lindgren selects wines that highlight the indigenous grapes from Campania and nearby regions."
The book is quite unique and formatted very interestingly. It's part encyclopedia of the wines of southern Italy, part glossary of specialty Italian ingredients, and the rest a collection of recipes from the restaurant.
In fact, the first 65 pages of the book are all about wine, with an in-depth discussion of the unique southern Italian grapes, along with recommended producers. There is a lot of great information here, and it serves as an excellent resource for learning about the wines from this area.
The rest of the book is all about food. Antipasti, pizza, soup, pasta, seafood, meats, veggies, and of course desserts, all from the restaurant. Some fun looking recipes that are intended to be representative of the country cooking of southern Italy.
I chose to make the A16 recipe for "Monday Meatballs."
I am a huge fan of meatballs in general, and I like making them, particularly to go along with spaghetti. This recipe was prepared differently than any Italian-style meatball I have made.
While the seasonings are what you might expect with some oregano, parsley, fennel seeds, and red pepper (no garlic?!?), they add ricotta cheese as one of the wet ingredients. To include some cured porky goodness, prosciutto is also added to the meat mixture. And, all of the cooking takes place in the oven (which was great for a 91 degree day!).
After an initial sear in a hot oven, the temperature is reduced, and they are braised in a covered baking pan in a San Marzano tomato sauce. The only can of authentic D.O.C.G. San Marzano tomatoes at my supermarket was $6.89 (gah!), so I went with "regular" canned plum tomatoes. They might not have been kissed by the soils of Mount Vesuvius, but they were actually from Italy and were a third of the price, so at least give me some points for the effort.
So I baked and then braised the meatballs as directed. Here is what they looked like coming out of the oven:
I wasn't completely enamored with the sauce. One thing that I might do differently is, instead of using fresh tomatoes, use an actual marinara sauce in the preparation. Even after braising, the tomato sauce comes out very bright with almost an acidic note. A prepared marinara cooked down with some garlic, onion, and basil would add a more rounded flavor with greater complexity, in my humble opinion.
The A16 book serves these as a stand-alone dish, like so:
|A16's "Monday Meatballs"|
|Sorry, but that's how I like it!|