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Panorama’s Chef Reveals the Secret to a Great Meatball Dish

Photo credit: Alexis Canary Photography

The Executive Chef of Old City wine bar and eatery Panorama, Matt Gentile knows exactly what it takes to make an Italian dish truly great. Is it the meat? The wine? The sauce? According to Gentile, it’s all of the above. Crafting an authentic Italian dish is a labor of love. The recipes, ingredients, and cooking method all must be well thought-out.

Don’t fret if you’re more of the order-in Ubereats foodie than the aspiring Ina Garten, Gentile has some simple tips that won’t scare you out of the kitchen. Sip a glass of wine, and read along as he explains the tricks to crafting a truly memorable meatball dish.

The Meatball Recipe:


6 eggs

1 cup ricotta (skim or whole milk per your preference)

1 large loaf Italian bread (only using the scooped out inside)

1 cup milk (skim or whole per your preference)

8 cloves garlic minced

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup parmigiana Reggiano

3T salt

1t crushed red pepper

1t ground black pepper

5 lbs. Laura’s 92% Lean Ground Beef

  1. Blend all ingredients with immersion blender and allow one hour to hydrate.
  2. Add Laura’s 92% Lean Ground Beef and mix by hand until the panade and beef are fully incorporated. Allow it to rest one hour in the refrigerator. Chef Matt says, “The benefit of using lean beef is that it has more flexibility with incorporating cheese.”
  3. Form the meatballs using an ice cream scoop. “The secret to a perfect meatball starts with its shape. The best way to maintain consistent meatballs with good texture, is to use an ice cream scoop,” suggests Chef Matt.
  4. Pan fry the meatballs (do not fully cook) in olive oil over medium heat, but be mindful to not overfill the pan.  Reserve the pan and oil for the ragú to follow.

Chef Matt says there’s a key component to crafting a delicious meatball dish—“One word—panade. It keeps the meatballs from becoming too dry.” Panade is the paste made from bread and milk that adds moisture to your meatballs. He also suggests topping them with a ragú (like the one below!). “Red Pepper Ragú is one of my all-time favorite sauces to top meatballs with,” insists Chef Matt. His simple and delicious sauce is the perfect seasoning to finish off your dish.

The Sauce Recipe:

Pepperonata Ragú

3 green bell peppers

3 red bell peppers

3 yellow bell peppers

4 Spanish onions

2-quart San Marzano tomato sauce

1 quart Chianti or comparable red wine

1 t crushed red pepper

1T black pepper ground

1 bunch fresh oregano chopped

1 sprig thyme picked

2T sea salt

  1. Small dice all vegetables (remove seeds and stem) and sauté in leftover olive oil from frying meatballs for one hour.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a slow simmer for one hour.
  3. Add your pan fried meatballs and simmer for an additional 25 minutes.
  4. The meatballs are now ready to be served. “I personally enjoy simple grilled bread alongside or an aged provolone stuffed roasted Padron pepper,” says Chef Matt.

His other tips for enjoying your hard-earned meal? “Pair the dish with Lambrusco. It’s especially great for the spring and summer seasons. It does a great job of balancing out the rich flavors from the meatball,” he says. Bon appetit!


Dreaming about how delicious this dish sounds? Chef Matt Gentile will be on deck serving his infamous meatball dish, made with Laura’s Lean beef at Philadelphia Magazine’s 2018 Wine Festival. Get your tickets here, and head to the Tork Café on May 3 to taste test.