Brisket Meatballs in Tomato Passata

At Vic’s her New York City restaurant, chef Hillary Sterling does a special Italian-influenced Passover menu that includes this riff on the requisite brisket, which appears as brisket meatballs. “Everyone makes brisket [for Passover], and the Italians make polpette, so why not bring them together?” says Sterling. The meatballs are sauced in Sterling’s riff on traditionally uncooked passata, which gets a quick simmer and a flavor update with orange, oregano, and chile flakes.

Brisket meatballs in tomato pasata
Photo: Christopher Testani
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
45 mins



  • Cooking spray

  • 3 cups crumbled unsalted matzo (about 5 [7-inch] sheets)

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 2 1/2 pounds ground brisket

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 4 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  • 1/2 cup sliced garlic (about 18 garlic cloves)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled San Marzano plum tomatoes, drained and crushed

  • 1/4 cup fresh marjoram leaves (from 1 bunch)

  • 5 (4- x 1-inch) orange peel strips

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper


  • Crumbled matzo

  • Fresh marjoram leaves

  • Chile oil (such as Roland)


Make the meatballs

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Set a wire rack inside a large baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Combine crumbled matzo and 1/3 cup water in a large bowl. Add brisket, eggs, oil, salt, ground fennel (if using), crushed red pepper, and black pepper. Mix with hands until combined. Shape mixture into 16 balls (about 1/3 cup or 3 1/4 ounces each). Arrange meatballs on prepared wire rack. Bake in preheated oven until browned and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of meatball registers 150°F, about 22 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tomato passata

  1. Cook garlic and oil in a large skillet over medium-high, stirring often, until garlic is soft but not brown, about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes, marjoram leaves, orange peel strips, salt, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high; remove from heat.

  2. Transfer meatballs to tomato passata in skillet. Serve warm, garnished with crumbled matzo, marjoram, and chile oil.

Suggested Pairing

Dark-fruited kosher California Cabernet.

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