Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Meatballs Revisited and Deconstructed....Part 2.

In Part One I discussed how to tell, for the most part, when you're being served frozen, phony meatballs when you go out to dine. I wonder how many of you took my writing to heart, went to a restaurant, ordered meatballs and tested them? Were you surprised by what you found out; was it a pleasant, satisfying surprise, or a disappointing one?

Now I'm off to Part Two of this saga and the making of a homemade meatball. The best way to get a ground meat product is to have the proper kitchen appliance in your home, and make it yourself. That way you pick and choose what cuts of meat you want in the final product, grind it yourself and know exactly what is in it. For many of us, that is not an option; however, you might be able to accomplish this task at a butcher or even local supermarket. The majority of us though just pick up a package of ground beef and hope for the best, and I am one of the majority. When I buy ground beef, I tend to look for the lowest fat content available, 90% lean or higher. Why? Depending on what I am preparing, the fat leeches out of the meat when cooking; so, if frying, you end up dumping it, or if left in a raw state to be cooked with other ingredients, the final creation comes out dripping in grease. But what about flavor you ask? As with other lean cuts of meat such as bison(buffalo), ostrich and elk, you need to provide the extra boost they need.

Here is a repeat of my basic meatball recipe; if you cannot find Italian seasoned bread crumbs, increase the Italian seasoning mix to a half cup.   Do not use ground breakfast sausage as a substitute for pure ground pork; it has seasonings and preservatives in it that will come out strongly in your completed meatballs.  Use a homemade pasta sauce when cooking your meatballs in sauce. Normally I use canned tomatoes, but when the season is right and I can get fresh by the box load; the taste is so incredibly amazing!

As you read the preparation you'll notice I say to make the meatball at about a 2 and 3/4 inch diameter, but in part one I said they were 3 inches in diameter. As the meatballs cook in the sauce, not only will they become infused with more flavor, but also the the sauce itself. Remember, you're using dried bread crumbs which will grab onto that sauce and give you a slightly expanded meatball that is tender and juicy.

Homemade Meatballs


4 lbs lean ground beef (90% or more)
2 lbs ground pork
1 ½ cups Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/8 cup Italian seasoning mix
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup diced onion
¾ cup milk
2 eggs, beaten


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray jelly roll pans with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together thoroughly; making sure all dry ingredients are mixed well with wet ingredients. Form the meat mixture into balls, about 2 ¾” (size of a tennis ball); place on jelly roll pans.

Bake meatballs for 20 minutes; dab on paper towels to remove any grease and immerse into sauce.

Allow meatballs to cook in sauce until sauce is ready; 4-6 hours depending on cooking technique being used. Serve with pasta, or use meatballs for a sandwich.

Makes about 20 meatballs.

Making a meatball sandwich, sub, hero, grinder or whatever you call it in your region, is quite easy; one good hint is to make sure and use a roll with a slightly harder exterior.  Those softer rolls have more moisture in them, so will not toast as quickly, giving the sauce more time to make the rolls soggy instead of crispy.

Use slices of mozzarella, provolone or combination of the two cheeses to help keep the roll from splitting apart, and make sure the meatballs and sauce don't try to make a break for it.

...and think of it this way, if you go someplace that won't take the time to make a fresh meatball, or a fresh pot of sauce; what else isn't fresh there?

Mary Cokenour