1. Place the bread on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes in a 200°F oven, or until totally dry.
2. Break the bread into chunks . . .
3. And pulse [in food processor] until the bread turns into crumbs.
4. Throw the meat into a large mixing bowl.
5. Add the garlic, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, grated Parmesan, milk, salt, and pepper. Use clean hands to mix together until well combined.
6. Use a scoop to retrieve a small amount of the meat mixture . . .
7. And roll it in your hands to make meatballs (about 25). Place the pan in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes, just to firm them up.
8. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Working with 8 to 10 meatballs at a time, cook them until brown but not cooked all the way through, 2 to 3 minutes per batch.
9. Remove from the pan to a plate while you make the rigatoni and sauce.
10. Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Stir and cook for a minute or two, until the onion begins to soften.
11. Add the wine and cook for another minute. (Just omit this step if you’re not using wine.)
12. Add the crushed tomatoes . . . whole tomatoes . . . salt, pepper, and sugar . . . And parsley and basil.
13. Stir the sauce to combine all the ingredients . . . Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
14. Then throw in the meat-a-balls!
15. Stir gently, then cover and cook for 20 more minutes, stirring once or twice, until the meatballs are cooked through.
16. Heap the rigatoni on a large platter and pile the meatballs and sauce on the top. Sprinkle on some extra minced parsley and serve with extra grated Parmesan.
• Use leftover meatballs to make sliders.
• Slice leftover meatballs and use as a pizza topping.
Recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond/William Morrow, 2012.