Butternut Squash and Meatball Stew with Chunky Tomatoes is the culinary equivalent of a big woolen sweater.
- 1 slice sandwich bread (crusts and all cut into tiny dice)
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- 1 pound ground beef
- salt and black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 ounce pancetta (cut into tiny dice)
- ½ teaspoon anise seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
- 2 cup 3/4‑inch diced butternut squash
- ½ onion (½‑inch diced)
- 3–4 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
- 1 (14½ oz) can beef broth
- 3 Roma tomatos (cut into 1 ½‑inch chunks)
- 1 cup smooth tomato sauce
- 2 cup raw cauliflower florets (bite-sized)
- grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
Place diced bread in a bowl; pour milk over bread. Set aside for a couple of minutes.
In a medium bowl gently combine soaked bread with beef until well-distributed but not overworked, season generously with salt and pepper. Gently shape into 12 (1 ½‑inch) meatballs.
Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stew pot that has a lid over medium-high. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add meatballs in a single layer; cook, turning to brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate. Add diced pancetta, anise seeds, and crushed red pepper flakes to the hot pan and cook until the fat has rendered. Add squash, onion, and garlic to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add stock, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Season to taste with salt and pepper; cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in cauliflower; cover and cook 3 minutes. Return meatballs to pan; cover and cook just until meatballs are cooked through 6 to 8 minutes.
Serve warm with Parmesan cheese.