Simple Meatballs and Cabernet Sauvignon Pairing | Wine Enthusiast
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Simple Meatballs and Cabernet Sauvignon Pairing

Recipe courtesy Jonathon Sawyer, chef/owner, Trentina, Cleveland

If you’re looking for a dish to pair with your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon look no further than these simple meatballs. Filled with fresh herbs and stuffed with two types of cheese, this recipe pairs perfectly with this rich red wine.

Why it works: Robust and fruit-forward Cabs are best for meatballs and any red sauce dishes. The bright acidity of the wine should match the acidity of the tomatoes, but should also be firmly structured enough to match this recipe.


1 Vidalia onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups diced bread or breadcrumbs
2 large organic eggs
¼ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons sliced Italian herbs (like parsley, oregano and basil)
1 pound ground pork
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Dusting of organic all-purpose flour, as needed
2 cups favorite tomato sauce


In small saucepan over low heat, sauté onion, garlic and red pepper in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook slowly, covered, stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, soak breadcrumbs in enough water to cover for 1 minute. Strain out excess liquid.

In a separate large bowl, beat eggs, then add ricotta, Parmesan, sautéed onion mixture and herbs. Mix thoroughly. Add meat and soaked breadcrumbs. Wearing gloves, mix meat and breadcrumbs with hands. Season with salt and pepper.

Shape mixture into balls slightly larger than golf ball. Refrigerate meatballs until chilled to ensure more even searing.

In large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat remaining 2 cups olive oil. Preheat oven to 350°F. Dust meatballs lightly with flour. Spread tomato sauce in baking dish.

Working in batches, brown meatballs on all sides in olive oil. Once browned, transfer meatballs to baking dish. After sautéing all meatballs, discard olive oil, reserving any pan drippings or browned meat remaining in pan and add to baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, until cooked through. Serves 4.

Pair It

Hearst Ranch 2016 Bunkhouse Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles); $32, 91 points. A refreshing approach to the grape, this bottling offers red currant and black plum alongside an earthy elegance of gravel and wood on the nose. It’s well balanced on the palate, with flavors of ripe red fruit, wood spice, dried herb and tobacco. —Matt Kettmann