Your Mother’s Meatballs…Perfected
Who invented the meatball? That’s like asking who invented pasta. We will never know. “Recipes” from long ago happened by accident and utilized the wit and whim of the cook and what was on hand. And so it must be with meatballs.
What we do know is that just about every country has them from the familiar buffet table Swedish meatballs to the little known meatballs (frikadeller) from Denmark that are made with pork, flour and club soda!
Today, the humble meatball has gone gourmet. From stuffed meatballs oozing exotic cheeses and even truffles, to crisp and crunchy panko fried meatballs. And although there is a litany of meatball types from around the world, the most famous and familiar of them all has got to be Italian meatballs.
Now you may be thinking: who can’t make Italian meatballs? Well, that depends a lot on how you approach making them. Here are some pointers for making great tasting, moist meatballs just like Mom’s.
- Use a combination of ground meats for flavor and texture; chuck is good for taste, pork for fat and veal for texture. Use a ratio of 1/3 pound each.
- For added moistness use ricotta cheese, mashed avocado or fresh bread crumbs soaked in milk. Do not use flavored, dry boxed bread crumbs. They are medicinal tasting and will ruin the taste of your meatballs.
- Use fresh garlic, not garlic powder.
- Use freshly grated REAL Parmesan or Pecorino cheese. Boxed imitation cheese from the grocery store will do nothing but disappoint.
- Use fresh flat leaf Italian parsley including the stems which have lots of flavor. Curly parsley has a less intense flavor.
- Use only egg yolks; they add moistness while whites add dryness. Beat the yolks before adding to the ingredients; it will be easier to combine with the meat mixture.
- Use fine sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper, often called “butcher’s pepper” for better flavor
- Do not over-mix; use wet hands to combine the ingredients
- Fry a small spoonful first in a small skillet to gauge seasoning before you form all the balls.
- Bake, do not fry for a lighter, healthier taste
- Form the meatballs between wet hands into tight compact balls that will not collapse when baked.
- Bake at a lower temperature (325F) to help maintain shape.
½ cup fresh.fine textured breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1/3 pound ground chuck
1/3 pound ground pork
1/3 pound ground veal
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten with a fork
Fine sea salt to taste
Grinding coarse black pepper to taste
Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl and stir in the milk; allow them to sit for 5 minutes, then stir to combine well and set aside.
In a medium size bowl, add the chuck, pork, veal, parsley, garlic, cheese, egg yolk, salt and pepper and the moistened breadcrumbs.
Mix everything with wet hands just until combined. Fry a small spoonful in a frying pan and taste for seasoning.
Use wet hand to form golf ball size meatballs and place them on a lightly oiled, rimmed baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated 325F oven until the meatballs are browned and an instant read thermometer inserted into one of them registers 165F.
Serve as is or add to your favorite tomato sauce.
Recipe from Ciao Italia Family Classics by Mary Ann Esposito