Makes a total of about 4 dozen meatballs and 3 qts sauce
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 lbs ground turkey meat
1/2 cup golden raisins, plumped in warm water and drained
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet and cooled
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
2 fresh bay leaves, or 3 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp pepperoncino flakes
3 (28-oz) cans Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Combine the carrot, celery, and onion in a food processor, pulsing to make a fine-textured paste or pestata. Scrape the pestata into a large bowl, and add the turkey meat, eggs, oregano, parsley, bread crumbs, pine nuts, raisins and salt, mixing with your hands to combine well.
Roll the meat into golf-ball-sized balls, and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. (You should get about 48 meatballs.) Bake the meatballs until browned all over, about 18 to 20 minutes. (They do not need to be entirely cooked through, because they will cook more in the sauce.)
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Toss in the onion and sauté until it turns transparent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, bay leaves, and peperoncino. Let the peperoncino toast for a minute, then pour in the tomatoes. Slosh out the tomato cans and bowl with 4 cups hot water, add to the pot, and stir. Stir in the remaining teaspoon of salt, and bring the sauce to a simmer while the meatballs finish baking; simmer sauce about 10 minutes more.
When the meatballs have finished baking, gently add them to the sauce and return to a simmer. Simmer, shaking the pan periodically to move (but not break) the meatballs, until the sauce is thick and flavorful for about 1 1/2 hours.
Recipe courtesy of Lidia Bastianich