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Italian Holiday Table: Meatballs in Tomato Chocolate Sauce and Citrus Chocolate Cake

Italian Holiday Table: Meatballs in Tomato Chocolate Sauce and Citrus Chocolate Cake

PARTNER POST — The holiday season is here and it is time to add some Italian flair to your menu with authentic ingredients from Colavita and Perugina’s rich Italian chocolate.
Basic meatballs in tomato sauce hold a hidden ingredient of chocolate. Finish an Italian inspired meal with a flourless chocolate cake with citrus.


I paired up with Colavita and Perugina to create two crazy tasty Italian dishes that would be an awesome addition to any holiday table! I wanted to do something a bit unique, so I included olive oil and chocolate in both courses (trust me here you guys…it sounds strange, but this works, and it works well).

To start, how about some of the best meatballs you will ever try? They’re made with a mixture of beef and pork, or ultra tenderness.

Italian Holiday Table: Meatballs in Tomato Chocolate Sauce and Citrus Chocolate Cake

The sauce is where things get really interesting…I’ve added grated Perugina dark chocolate straight into the tomato base! It sounds strange, but its adds such a rich depth of flavor! It’s not chocolate-y at all, just deep and rich.

These meatballs make a fantastic appetizer at a holiday party, or serve them over some spaghetti. I turned some of the leftover into meatball subs with melted provolone cheese on top. It was insanely tasty!!

Rachael Dart
Course Main, Primi
Cuisine Italian-Inspired
Servings 4 servings


For the meat balls:

  • 2 cups Ciabatta bread crusts removed and torn into small pieces
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 and ½ tbsp Colavita extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 1 small sweet onion chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ lb. ground beef
  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper

For the sauce:

  • 28 oz. Colavita crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 squares 0.7 oz. Perugina 70% bittersweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper


  • Add the bread to a small bowl, and pour the milk over top. Allow to soak for at least 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a dutch oven, and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the onions and sauté for a couple minutes. Add in the garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, and sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Remove half of the mixture from the pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the meats, soaked bread, thyme, ½ the onion mixture, egg, and lots of salt and pepper. Gently combine with your hands, and stick in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  • Using a small cookie scoop (about 1 to 2 tablespoon-sized), scoop the mixture into balls and place on a baking sheet. Place in the fridge while you start the sauce.

For the sauce:

  • To the pot with half of the onion mixture, add in the tomato paste and bring back up to medium-high heat. Add in the crushed tomatoes and cook until simmering. Add in the chocolate and stir until the sauce is uniform. Season with lots of salt and pepper. Allow to simmer on low while you begin to cook the meatballs.
  • In a large skillet (cast iron is best), heat the remaining 1 and ½ tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the meatballs, and brown on all sides. Carefully, pour the hot sauce into the pan, and simmer until the meatballs have cooked through.

Italian Holiday Table: Meatballs in Tomato Chocolate Sauce and Citrus Chocolate Cake

See Also

And for desert? The most decadent chocolate cake—is there anything better? Seriously, guys…this cake is crazy fudgy. It’s completely flourless, and oh-so-rich. The chocolates I chose to use in it are flavored with lemon and orange, and they play so nicely with the fruity olive oil!

I serve it with a snowy white dusting of powdered sugar, and a dollop of creme fraiche. The slight tang and creaminess of the creme fraiche cuts the richness just enough. Cut this cake into thin slices because I’m not kidding when I say a little goes a long way!

Rachael Dart
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Baking, Dessert, Dolci
Cuisine Italian-Inspired
Servings 8 to 10 servings


  • 3.5 oz. Perugina Dark Chocolate Limoncello Chocolate Bar finely chopped
  • 3.5 oz. Perugina Dark Chocolate Orangello Chocolate Bar finely chopped
  • ½ cup Colavita 100% Argentinian Fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • confectioners’ sugar to serve
  • crème fraîche to serve


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 9-inch spring form pan with a bit of olive oil. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and grease the paper.
  • In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt together the chocolate and olive oil for 30 seconds; stir very well, then return to the microwave in 10 second bursts, if needed, until fully melted.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the chocolate/olive oil mixture, and the sugar and salt until cool. Add in the eggs one a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in the cocoa powder and mix until combined. Scrape into the prepared pan. Rap it a few times on the counter to release any air bubbles.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Allow to fully cool before removing from pan and peeling off the parchment from the bottom. Sift confectioners’ sugar over top, and serve with crème fraîche.


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