Making Great Basic Meatballs
For years I approached meatballs as a challenge. Balls aren’t supposed to have sides….How do I keep them round? Why are they falling apart? Are they done in the middle? Why do they taste like a hamburger that was just tossed in a Marinara sauce? Why go to all of the trouble to be disappointed? Greatly frustrated I took them off the menu…off they go…no more meatballs.
Then, I read an article about the meatball’s versatility…I think I rolled my eyes. The article went on about making various sizes of meatballs…really????? Just making one normal size meatball stay together and not be flat would be good for me…. Continuing on, the author said that meatballs were fried for extra flavor and a firm texture but that it wasn’t necessary. No frying and no mess? I was listening… The answer? Baking. The article said that baking the meatballs at a high temperature retains flavor and their texture. I was paying attention. No mess…I was smiling.
I learned three basic steps to great basic meatballs: mixing, shaping and cooking.
Mixing: There are two steps. Before adding the meat, blend all of the other ingredients together thoroughly. Add the meat and combine using a fork. The idea is not to overmix and compact the meat which will yield tough meatballs.
Shaping: Use a scoop! Why didn’t I think of that? Scooping and then rolling the meat into a ball gives uniformity. (I turned in the two spoons that I had been using. They worked for mom and they worked for my cousin…I never mastered spoons!)
Cooking: Place the meatballs on a baking sheet after rolling them. Pour in enough beef broth or stock to cover the bottom of the pan. The beef broth keeps the meatballs juicy. The drippings can be saved and used later in a sauce, if you like.
Preheat oven: 450°
1 cup bread crumbs
In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients (except the ground meat). Combine the meats with the bread crumb mixture. Stir thoroughly with a fork. Using a scoop or two spoons, shape the meat mixture into balls that are about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches in diameter.
Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Space the meatballs on the pan so that they are not touching or crowded.
Cover the bottom of the pan with beef broth. Bake for 25 minutes or until the meatballs are just cooked through. Reserve the pan juices for a sauce, if desired.
The original recipe calls for 2 pounds of ground chuck. I like to use a mixture of beef and pork. If you do not want a spicy meatball, reduce the amount of red pepper flakes by half.
The recipe makes more meatballs that we need for one meal. I freeze the extra meatballs in a freezer bag for future use.