Is there a better savory brunch dish than a runny egg yolk smothered in homemade tomato sauce and surrounded by little meatballs? I don't think so! Now you can bring this restaurant quality dish to your home for a brunch day in!
I grew up eating fresh tomatoes grated into my omelettes so tomato and eggs has never been a new concept to me. When I discovered eggs baked in tomato sauce, however, it was a complete game changer. What a wonderful dish with so many possible flavor profiles, it is a great base for a brunch entree that will make you skip waiting on line for a restaurant without a second thought.
This recipe combines my favorite meatballs recipe with a deeply flavorful tomato sauce and perfectly cooked eggs. I was having brunch with my friends at a lovely Italian spot and that is when I first had this dish prepared in an Italian way rather than with a middle eastern flavor profile and it was just as delicious and crave-able. I remember on that particular day I couldn't finish the portion; so I brought it home and made some pasta and had the last egg and a bit of tomato sauce with it and was a very happy over indulged camper - so dont forget to make leftovers just to do that!
For this dish we served it with some homemade white bread that was toasted and garlicked up for the occasion. What is great about this dish is: although labor intensive it uses one pot, a blender and a baking dish, so minimal cleanup! Using one pot is important because you just keep leaving flavors in that pot that get picked up by the next step in the recipe.
You start with the base of your meatballs which consists of shallots, mushrooms, pancetta and sage. Then you blend that up with some soft white bread, cream and eggs to bind the meatballs together (oh! and lots and lots of cheese). Then we bring those meatballs back to the same pot to give them a nice sear and seal in that moisture. Searing your meatballs creates texture and helps them maintain their shape. You don't want to boil your meatballs in the sauce, you lose that extra flavor and yummy crunch!
After the meatballs are done in the pan we return the veg base for your sauce and deglaze with wine. The pot is now the sauce's home, where it'll happily bubble away and deepen in flavor. At this point is what we call inactive cooking time, other than stirring the sauce here or there you don't have to be doing anything to it. This is the perfect time to wash up and clean the kitchen and then you have little to no cleanup later on when you're too full to move.
When you finish up your sauce you ladle it over your meatballs and let them bake in it. Baking your meatballs in the sauce not only flavors the meatballs but as the meat cooks, it imparts a wonderful flavor to the sauce. People often put beef stock in their quick tomato sauces and the reason is to give it the effect that its been cooking down and further develop flavor. When you have the time to cook your meatballs in the sauce you do exactly that just in a more traditional way!
Lastly we have our beautiful eggs. You want to add in your eggs when your meatballs are at about 150 degrees fahrenheit in the center, because you will cook your eggs for just about 15 min or until the whites have solidified. It is important to make little wells for your eggs to fall into, that way they dont run all over the place. The best way to do this is with the back of your ladle and just push down into the sauce. Feel free to move away the meatballs to make room, they're all friends in there they won't mind!
If your oven has a light this is the time to use it, definitely keep an eye on your eggs to not over cook the yolks. If you are worried about this process it is better to undercook the eggs and then cover the pan for a minute or two to allow the residual heat to cook them through properly! WORST case scenario if you overcook your eggs and have guests coming over fry up some eggs and gingerly place them into the sauce. Nothing is ever ruined in our book, you just take different routes and in the end the dish will always be delicious!