Sunday, 23 February 2014

Italian Meatballs






Let’s start by clarifying one thing: I am not Italian. I am not claiming that this is an authentic Italian recipe. It wasn’t passed down to me from somebody’s nonna or anything like that. The reason why I’m calling them Italian meatballs is because this recipe is best to use in Italian dishes. I would not use these meatballs to use in, for example, a Thai coconut broth. The Parmigiano combined with the choice of herbs makes them primarily suited for Mediterranean dishes. Not to say that you couldn’t use them in Asian cooking, I just don’t recommend it. You are the boss of your meatballs. These would be amazing in a rich tomato sauce for pasta, used in a meatball sandwich, added to soup, used as a pizza topping, added to casseroles, stews or even pot pies.   


Some of my Italian friends insist that a true Italian meatball should be 2 parts beef, 1 part pork and 1 part veal. Feel free to do that, I’m sure it would be delicious. I find that using 1 part beef and 1 part Italian sausage (pork) is a phenomenal substitute.  I always go with spicy Italian sausage but if you prefer you can go mild. You might be able to find Italian sausage meat as is, otherwise you’ll just need to get a pound of Italian sausages and discard the casings. Whatever combination of meat you use, only mix the ingredients so that they just come together. If you overwork the mixture your meatballs will be dense and chewy.  Also, I bake my meatballs. That's what my mom always did. It's cleaner and more convenient that way but if you would rather pan fry your meatballs go ahead. Just do so in batches.  


This recipe yields about 30 meatballs and they freeze very well. Making a batch of these is very easy and gives you plenty of opportunities to make several more meals out of later. Instead of throwing them all in a bag and then your freezer they will work best if you lay them out separately on a tray and put them in the freezer for about an hour. That way they will freeze separately and be easier to divide and work with later. Otherwise, they will freeze into one big clump.     



Ingredients

1 lb ground beef
1 lb Italian sausage meat
2 eggs
½ cup milk
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
¼ tsp of cayenne (optional)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper



Combine the breadcrumbs and milk to a bowl and stir with a fork. Set aside and allow the breadcrumbs to soak up the milk. This will keep the meatballs moist as well as act as a binder. After a couple of minutes it should look like this:




Also, you'll want to sautée the onion and garlic before adding them. This will dramatically enhance the flavour and remove excess water. Over medium-high heat, sautée the onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil. Stir occasionally. For an application like this, I recommend getting a nice brown colour on the onions. This could take up to ten minutes but the flavour will be stupendous. Just before the onion starts to think of turning brown, add the garlic. The garlic should take less than half the time as the onion or else it will burn and turn bitter.





When the breadcrumb and milk mixture and the sautéed onions are prepared, add all of the ingredients (except olive oil) into a large bowl. It will mix better if you add the eggs one at a time, stirring between. Do not stir too much. Just work it until the ingredients are just evenly distributed throughout. 




Place the meatball mixture into the refrigerator for anywhere fro one hour to overnight. This will not only marinate the meat but firm the mixture up so it's easier to work with. Wet your fingers and form balls just slightly larger than a golf ball. You should end up with about 30 meatballs.




Preheat your oven to 400F/205C. Spray or lightly oil a baking tray and arrange the meatballs evenly so that they are not touching each other. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until they are evenly browned and slightly crispy. Remove from the oven and set on paper to remove any excess fat.




Boom! Your meatballs are ready to eat. If you are going to add them to a tomato sauce, add the desired amount of browned meatballs to the sauce while it is simmering and leave for at least 20 minutes. They will be even better the longer they simmer in the sauce. For the portion that I used right away and didn't freeze, I made spaghetti and meatballs. The spaghetti that I used was a gluten-free pasta made from wild rice. It was very wholesome and satisfying.




I would love to know what creative dishes you make at home using meatballs. Leave a comment below and feel free to ask any questions that you may have. To be honest I'm a little surprised at myself that it has taken me so long to make a meatball recipe on the blog because they are so versatile, easy and cost-effective. Give these a try at home and see for yourself!

Best of luck,

B

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