Chef Mark McEwan’s Veal & Ricotta Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Celebrity Chef Mark McEwan is perhaps best known for being a judge on Top Chef Canada. Inspired by the freshest ingredients, Chef McEwan’s gastronomic prowess reaches every corner of the culinary universe with two best-selling cookbooks, three boutique grocery stores, and six extraordinary restaurants, including Thornbury’s own Fabbrica.


A staple in Italian cuisine is a classic tomato sauce. A truly simple and delicious sauce takes patience and good ingredients. It’s difficult to get really flavoursome tomatoes outside the Mediterranean, especially during the colder months, so our tip is: don’t be afraid to make sauces using canned tomatoes instead!


  • 100 oz (2.84 L) or 4-28 oz cans) whole canned tomatoes (Roma tomatoes ripened in the San Marzano Valley)
  • 1 large Spanish onion 5 cloves of local garlic
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) of good quality olive oil
  • Pinch of black pepper 1 bunch of basil,
  • picked and washed
  • finishing salt to taste, upon serving

METHOD: Begin by crushing the garlic cloves and finely dicing the onion. In a large saucepan, add olive oil and begin to slowly sweat the diced onions and crushed garlic over low heat. Stir the garlic and onions until translucent to release their natural sweetness and aromas. Once gently and fully cooked through, add all remaining ingredients. Cover the pan and let simmer for 2-3 hours. Note: overtime, the whole tomatoes should break down on their own (do not over-stir). Once the tomatoes have broken down and the basil is wilted, pass the mixture through a food mill. Using a food mill will maintain the natural flesh of the tomatoes, ensuring a better texture and flavour. For this recipe, do not puree. Serve over fresh made pasta (click here for Chef Mark McEwan’s gnocchi recipe) and salt to taste upon serving. Simple, elegant, and full of rich tomato flavour.


  • 1/2 Spanish onion, minced
  • 1 cup (250 ml) olive oil
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) minced garlic
  • 2 lb (1 kg) ground Veal
  • 2 cups (500 ml) ricotta cheese
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup (150 ml) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) minced Italian parsley
  • 1/2 bunch chives, minced
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) minced oregano 1 tbsp (15 ml) minced thyme Salt and pepper
  • 2 batches basic tomato sauce 2 cups (500 ml) basil leaves, torn 4 tbsp (60 ml) whipped butter
  • Grated Parmigiano- Reggiano to taste

METHOD: In a heavy-bottomed skillet, sweat the onions in 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the oil until translucent. Add the garlic, sweat a minute longer, and then cool the mixture in the refrigerator. In a large bowl, combine the veal, ricotta, egg whites, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, chives, oregano, thyme, and the cooled onion and garlic; season generously. Work it all together well with your hands for at least five minutes. Remove a small portion and fry it in hot oil. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Rinse hands under cold running water and begin forming meatballs of desired size, rinsing hands again as necessary whenever the meat gets sticky. Collect meatballs on a baking sheet. Dust them with flour. Heat one or two large skillets on medium-high, heat the remaining oil and sear the meatballs in batches if necessary, browning them nicely on all sides before setting them aside to drain on paper towels. Heat tomato sauce, then add the meatballs and torn basil. Serve topped off with extra sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste.