Here’s How to Make the Ultimate Meatball Dinner

Because meatballs equal happiness.

Photo: Daniel Holzman/Project Foodie

Everyone loves a delicious meatball-and-pasta dinner, but not all meatballs are created equal. 

We can think of no one better to show us how to make this mouthwatering meal than Daniel Holzman, chef and co-owner of The Meatball Shop in New York City. 

“The biggest mistake people make when they’re making meatballs is to think it’s all about the meat,” Holzman tells Maxim. “We have a misconception here in America that the most expensive thing is necessary the best thing. The most expensive cuts of meat are often the leanest—with the least amount of fat. These muscles have the least flavor and dry out easily when fully cooked, like in a meatball.” 

Instead, opt for the cheaper, fattier cuts when planning your next meatball feast. 

Photo: Daniel Holzman/Project Foodie

“Using the tougher, fattier cuts like shoulder and brisket give you the moisture and flavor you’re looking for for a fraction of the cost.”

That’s just one of many helpful nuggets of information Holzman dishes out on his innovative new cooking app, Project Foodie. Step-by-step video tutorials make following a recipe foolproof. You even get ingredients and tools delivered directly to their door. 

Follow the steps below to make Holzman’s ultimate meatball dinner. As the man says, “Meatballs equal happiness.” 

“The Meatball Dinner” with Meatballs, Classic Tomato Sauce, Rigatoni and Chicory Salad 

Meatball Ingredients:

  • ½ lb 80% lean ground beef
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup unseasoned Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 pinch chili flakes
  • 8 stems fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3 sprigs of oregano
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
Photo: Daniel Holzman/Project Foodie

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 pinch chili flakes
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1.5 tbsps tomato paste
  • 2 cans whole peeled plum tomatoes

Pasta Ingredients: 

  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 tbsps kosher salt
  • 8 oz rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsps parmesan or grana padano

Salad Ingredients: 

  • .5 romaine heart
  • .25 head radicchio
  • .5 belgian endive
  • .5 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • .25 tsp kosher salt


  • Knife
  • Lemon reamer
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • Roasting pan (sub oven safe baking dish)
  • Portion scoop
  • Cheese grater (sub microplane)
  • Spice grinder
  • Cutting board
  • Small saute pan
  • Medium sauce pot 
  • Wooden spoon (sub any wooden cooking utensil)
  • Large pot with lid
  • Can opener
  • Colander
  • Tasting spoons
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
Photo: Daniel Holzman/Project Foodie

Step 1: Preheat Oven, Start Tomato Sauce

Heat the oven to 375 F. Chop 1 yellow onion. Add to small saucepan. Peel 3 cloves of fresh garlic and give them a rough chop. Add the garlic to the sauce pot. Add a pinch of red chili flake, 2 sprigs fresh oregano, 1 bay leaf, and ¼ cup of olive oil. Place pot on stove over medium-high and saute for 10-15 min, stirring regularly, or until the onions are very tender and beginning to brown.

Step 2: Mix, Roll, and Roast Meatballs

In a medium bowl, combine ½ pound ground pork, ½ pound ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, and ¼ cup breadcrumbs. Grind ¼ teaspoon fennel seed in a spice grinder. To the meatball mixture add 1 pinch red pepper flakes, 3 sprigs chopped fresh oregano, 10 sprigs chopped parsley and ½ cup ricotta. Vigorously but quickly stir the meat with your hands. Heat a small skillet over medium high, add a touch of olive oil and cook off a small piece of meatball mixture to test for seasoning. Adjust the meatball mixture with additional salt, if needed.

Photo: Daniel Holzman/Project Foodie

Continue to occasionally stir the onions. Season with salt. Add a coating of olive oil to the baking pan. Portion the meatball mixture slightly larger than a golf ball, with a scoop if available. Roll the balls evenly and arrange them in rows in the baking pan. 

“When it comes to meatballs—and most peasant foods for that matter—it’s all about the imperfections of home cooking that make the difference,” Holzman says.  

“Meatballs shouldn’t be perfectly round or perfectly evenly browned or have everything perfectly cut to the same size, it’s in the little inconsistencies that the magic happens.” 

Roast for 15-17 minutes or until firm to the touch and 165 F. Add 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste to the onions and cook for 4-5 minutes or until brick red and aromatic. Stir in two 28-ounce cans of tomatoes to the sauce.

Step 3: Prep Salad Ingredients, Boil Water

Remove the core from 1 romaine heart and ½ endive head. Chop into ¾ inch pieces. Repeat with ¼ head of radicchio but cut into ½ inch pieces. Combine in a large bowl. Prep ½ lemon and set aside with the bowl of lettuce. Fill a large stock pot with 1 gallon of warm tap water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to occasionally stir the sauce.

Step 4: Sauce Meatballs, Return to Oven

Once the meatballs are finished cooking. Pour ½ of the tomato sauce over the balls and return the pan to the oven to continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

Step 5: Cook Pasta, Dress and Plate Salad

Once water is boiling add 2 tablespoons kosher salt to the water. Add 8 ounces dry rigatoni pasta to the pot. Stir pasta until the water returns to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes (or 2 minutes less than instructed on your box.) Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the salad greens. Toss with hands. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt, then the juice of ½ lemon tossing after each addition. Adjust the seasoning, as needed. Divide between bowls.

Step 6: Finish Pasta, Plate Meal

Drain the pasta in the colander. Add the pasta to the remaining sauce in the pot. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring gently to combine and finish cooking the pasta. Add a little water as needed to moisten. Pull the meatballs out of the oven and place on a trivet or transfer to plates with the pasta. Grate the grana padano over the top of the pasta and meatballs. Add a drizzle of olive oil, if desired. Enjoy!