The Ultimate Comfort Food: Fennel-Scented Veal & Pork Ricotta Meatballs Over Braised Rainbow Chard and Paired with Monte Bernardi Retromarcia Chianti 2011

This is home cooked food… to nourish family and friends of the most primal nature.



 What is your comfort food memory?

As the tomato sauce and meatballs gently simmer on the stove top, the whole house is wrapped in a warm blanket of mouth-watering aromas with the anticipation of  satisfying, comforting flavors to follow. It doesn’t matter what season it is, comfort food is welcomed anytime.

Vivid recollections of family and close friends sat around our kitchen table sharing stories about life, love and the people who preserved these memories and passed them along. Everyone was always welcomed at our table of comfort food at our house. 

This rustic meatball dish is served with garlicky braised Rainbow Swiss Chard with the addition of golden raisins, an Italian culinary traditional. Pass warm and crusty Italian bread to soak up the rich tomato sauce and juices instead of pasta.


I must admit I immediately fell in love with this wine!

Retromarcia 2011 Chianti Classico  of the Monte Benardi Estate in Panzano located in the historic Chianti region of Italy, is an elegant Chianti with echoes of rustic charm in every glass. Retromarcia means “to back up” or “step back” to the past.  From the first sip to the last drop in the glass, you get the best of yesterday, today. Aromas and flavors of ripe cherries and blackberries accompanied by their natural fresh fruit acidity, a hint of fennel fronds and candied orange peels with a long-lasting finish of this terroir-driven wine is just about as good as it gets. The tender, fennel-scented veal, pork and ricotta meatballs along with the rich tomato sauce  paired well with this Chianti Classico.  Matching the key ingredients of the recipe with the unique flavors and aromas of the wine are pieces of the flavor puzzle that comes together and creates the perfect comfort meal!


Get your hands dirty! Fold in creamy ricotta, aromatic fennel seeds, and minced garlic into freshly ground veal and local pork with your hands. Form the meatballs with the help of a large ice cream scoop so each meatball will be approximately the same size. Look how utterly delicious they look on their own after roasting in the oven!

                            Your mouth should be watering by now!


Although we would spend all day gently cooking our family’s famous tomato sauce, I found this recipe to be as delicious and is ready in a fraction of the time.




Braised Rainbow Swiss Chard is very popular among Mediterranean and Italian cooks which can be traced back to Sicily. Raisins were added to help balance the bitterness of the greens and cut the acidity of the dish.






Fennel-Scented Ricotta Veal & Pork Meatballs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Tender, succulent meatballs bathed in rich sauce over an earthy braise of Rainbow Swiss Chard
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8 -10
  • For the meatballs:
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 4 T whole milk or cream
  • 1 cup whole ricotta cheese
  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 2 lbs ground veal
  • 4 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 t fennel seeds, slightly crushed
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 T parsley, minced
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • For the Tomato Sauce:
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 cans/boxes of Pomi crushed tomatoes or San Marziano tomatoes, whole or crushed
  • If tomatoes are whole, crush with hands or use food processor
  • 1 cup of rich chicken stock
  • ½ can tomato paste
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 t dried marjoram
  • 1 T sugar
  • S/P to taste
  • For the Rainbow Swiss Chard:
  • 2 lb Rainbow Swiss Chard, chopped
  • ½ chicken stock
  • pinch salt
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  1. Meatballs:
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. In small bowl, combine bread crumbs & milk or cream and soak for a few minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, combine meat,ricotta,soaked bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, parsley, fennel
  5. salt/pepper to taste
  6. Add eggs and mix with hands thoroughly
  7. Using a large ice cream scoop 18/8, form the meatballs
  8. Place meatballs on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with s/p
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning once
  10. For the homemade tomato sauce:
  11. Saute onions in olive oil then add garlic to soften
  12. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken stock
  13. Add marjoram
  14. Simmer over medium heat for 45 min to 1 hr until thick and rich.
  15. Adjust seasonings for flavor
  16. For the Rainbow Swiss Chard:
  17. Saute the greens in olive oil,s/p, red pepper flakes until wilted
  18. Add golden raisins and chicken stock allowing them to braise for a few minutes
  19. Place cooked meatballs into tomato sauce and warm for about 10 to 15 min
  20. Add a scoop of sautéed Rainbow Swiss Chard to individual bowls
  21. Top with 3 or so meatballs per person
  22. Parmesano Reggiano for passing
  23. Crusty toasted Italian bread for soaking up every bite!


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