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Our new go-to beef for anything that calls for ground beef? Short rib. Short rib has striations of fat and it’s the fat content that helps keep the beef moist. Short rib is great for either slow cooking (braising) or quick searing (Korean-style ribs). Both methods of cooking are used for meatballs. The caramelized exterior adds to the richness of the tomato sauce. If you don’t have a grinder, see if can special order ground short rib from your farmer. If not, buy it from your local butcher.

You can either par-bake the meatballs in the oven or do a quick pan sear. Then let them finish cooking in the sauce. If you choose the baking method, heat oven to 375˚ and place formed meatballs on a prepared baking sheet or in a muffin tin and cook for about 15 min.

I used an ice cream scoop to form the meatballs. They’re the perfect size for brioche slider buns, or with pasta. We’ve already eaten them both ways…

For the sliders, top the bottom half of a brioche slider bun with sauce, and layer with basil and a thin slice of fresh mozzarella. Add a meatball and some more sauce. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

short rib meatball slider


What you need:

  • 2 lbs ground short rib
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 1 tsp each of dried parsley, rosemary and oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1+ c panko breadcrumbs
  • EVOO
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper


Tomato Sauce:

  • EVOO
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 28-oz cans San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/2 c red wine
  • 1/4 c balsamic cream
  • 2-4 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tsp each of parsley, rosemary and oregano
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

What you do:

  • In lg bowl mix short rib and sausage until well combined.
  • Add herbs and garlic and mix.
  • Mix in egg.
  • Add panko, about 1/2 c at a time, until a good consistency is reached.
  • Use ice cream scoop to form meatballs to keep consistence size.
  • Heat cast iron skillet with a light covering of EVOO.
  • Add enough meatballs to fill the pan, leaving room for turning.
  • Brown evenly on each side, about 2-3 min each.
  • Transfer to plate and repeat.
  • Add additional EVOO and onion to pan.
  • Cook until onions are soft.
  • Heat slow cooker to low.
  • Transfer onions to slow cooker.
  • Add San Marzano tomatoes, wine, balsamic and paste.
  • Using immersion blender, puree tomato mixture. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, add onion, tomatoes, wine and balsamic to food processor or blender.)
  • Add herbs and fresh basil.
  • Add meatballs.
  • Cook for 3-4 hours.