A new house favorite here is the spicy meatball, which is so incredibly pigs-in- a-blanket and oh so good. It’s also a great use for our plentiful ground meat. Last week I fashioned a tray of meatballs from a combination of beef and pork, and baked them in a spicy tomato sauce. Being hungry and thus in a bit of a hurry, I incorporated not only the finest in locally pastured ground meat but also the juicy paper towel, which became apparent only after it all came to the table.

“Kind of gristly,” I said, chewing. Charlie smiled like a cat and helped himself to seconds anyway. The recipe is easy and infallible — almost.

Recipe: Chipotle Meatballs

2 oz cured fatback or bacon / 3 cloves garlic / 2 eggs / ½ cup breadcrumbs / ½ cup chopped mint / salt & pepper / 1½ lbs ground beef, pork, or a combination / 2 cups canned tomatoes, or 3 cups fresh / 3 chipotle chilies / 1 tsp dried oregano / ½ cup stock

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, grind together fatback and 1 clove garlic. Add eggs, breadcrumbs, chopped mint, ½ tsp salt, a few grindings of pepper, and process until ingredients are finely chopped. Add in ground meat and pulse until combined.

Form 1½” meatballs and arrange in a baking dish. When oven is ready, insert dish and cook for about 15 minutes, until meat is browned. Meanwhile, add the remaining garlic, tomatoes, chipotles with their adobo marinade, and oregano to the food processor and pulse until ingredients are finely chopped. Heat a skillet on the stovetop. Add tomato mixture and stock and cook on medium high until reduced by one-third, about 10 minutes. Pour tomato reduction over meatballs and bake 10 minutes more, until tomato sauce is bubbling. Makes about 20 meatballs. Adapted from Rick Bayless.