Meatballs al forno are the A-listers of the meatball set. They're on the menu at Nancy Silverton's Mozza restaurant in Los Angeles and they've got the reputation for being the best meatballs in the world. Take a bite, I think you'll agree.
Put the stale bread in a small bowl, pour in the milk, and set aside to soak the bread for about 5 minutes.
Put the Parmesan, onion, parsley, eggs, garlic, ground red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and blend well. Add the pork, veal (or beef), and pancetta.
Squeeze the bread to drain, and discard the excess milk. Add the bread to the bowl with the other ingredients and mix lightly with your fingertips. (I will sometimes do this in my KitchenAid mixer with the paddle attachment.) Make sure everything gets well combined, but don't over work, as this makes the meat tough.
Use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop out the meat and roll each portion into a ball. Each meatball should be about 2 ounces.
Pour the flour into a large bowl and lightly coat the meatballs in the flour, shaking off any excess. Place them on a platter or baking sheet. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight if you want to do this ahead.) This helps firm up the meatballs so they hold their shape.
Pour the olive oil into a large Dutch oven or ovenproof skillet to about 1/4 inch deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking, about 2 to 3 minutes. Working in two batches, place the meatballs in a single layer in the pan and sear them until they are lightly browned all over, being gentle when turning them so they don't fall apart. Remove the meatballs to a plate.
Wipe out the pan and then return the meatballs to the pan. Pour the tomato sauce over them.
Add the bay leaves and and place the meatballs in the oven to gently cook for 1 hour. Let the meatballs rest, out of the oven, for 10 minutes before serving.
To serve, lay the sauce down on a plate or bowl and top with the meatballs. Allow 3 per serving. Top with parmesan and fresh herbs.
The original recipe includes a quart of chicken stock mixed with the tomato sauce, and then poured over the meatballs. I almost always omit the stock, fyi, because I like a thicker sauce.
Even though it's not strictly authentic, go ahead and serve these meatballs with spaghetti or over polenta if you're craving more carbs.
I love to slice the leftover meatballs in half, load up a split French roll with the meat and extra sauce, and then top with slices of mozzarella ~ a little time under the broiler and you've got the best leftovers you've ever had!