Authentic and deeply flavorful.
Italian meatball recipes inspire a lot of debate. Is it ok to put meatballs on a sheet pan to bake? Or, do authentic meatballs require standing over a hot skillet and frying them until your clothes, hair, and home are saturated with the smell of garlic, onions, and meat? What is the deal with those recipes calling for raisins? (Hint: That is Sicilian style.) Do you need to use beef-pork-veal blend, or can you just use beef?
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I think that the answer to all those debates is the same: Yes. In other words, a good meatball is not one that follows a rigid set of rules. Rather, the best meatballs adhere to the general rules of Italian cooking: some of this, some of that, and a lot of love.
That said, there are several guideposts that will lead to more success.
- Importantly, do not overmix the meat or squeeze the meat into tight balls. This will result in tough, hard meatballs. The best ones are tender.
- Secondly, take the time to prep the ingredients correctly. Grate the onion; don’t do big chunks. Same for the garlic. Whisk the eggs. Mince the parsley. That way, all of the flavors will melt together into the meat and make a deeply flavorful result.
This recipe uses a beef-pork-veal blend. The recipe also calls for baking the meatballs instead of frying — it is much neater and more convenient (the trade-off being that they will not have the same meaty crust as fried meatballs).
The result will be a bowl of meatballs that taste meaty and tender, with just the right hints of onion and garlic. But meatballs and their method ultimately lies with the cook. Have fun, and happy rolling.
What is your meatball secret? Share in the comments, below.
Classic Italian Meatballs
- 2 1/2 pounds beef, pork, veal mix (equal portions)
- 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup milk
- 1 bunch fresh, flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped fine
- 1 medium onion, grated on the large-grate side of a box grater
- 1/2 cup freshly-grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
- 3 large cloves fresh garlic, finely grated or minced
- 15 turns fresh-cracked black pepper, or 1 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and lightly grease or line with parchment two half-sheet pans.
- Put the meat in a large mixing bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, and pour the milk over the breadcrumbs and allow it to soak in for a minute.
- Add the eggs, Pecorino-Romano cheese, chopped parsley, minced garlic, grated onion.PRO TIP: Include the upper half of the parsley stems when chopping. The stems of most soft herbs, like parsley and cilantro, are completely edible and have great flavor.
- Remove your rings and bracelets and put them safely on the windowsill or a ring holder. Your hands are about to get a little messy. Mix the meatballs until combined -- mixing with your hands is the best, and arguably only, way. PRO TIP: Mixing the meatballs is an important step. It is important not to over-mix the meat. If the meat becomes too over-mixed, it will lose its ideal, fall-apart consistency. Using your hands helps control the mixing.
- Using a 1/2 cup scoop, lightly shape the meatballs with your hands into loose but solid rounds, and place them on the prepared sheet pans, with at least 1" space between each.
- Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway. "Sample" one or two hot out of the oven, then smother them with Sunday sauce or marinara, and serve with pasta.