Everyone loves meatballs whether they are on a meatball parm wedge (this name is highly contested but I’m sticking with it), nestled on top of your favorite spaghetti or on their own as an appetizer or side. The beauty of meatballs is that they began as a way to make sure nothing went to waste so they can be modified to your heart’s content as long as you follow a few guidelines.
- The meat: This can be any ground meat of your choice, just know that if you use lean meat you will have to compensate with extra moisture from another ingredient. The meat may dictate the flavor direction, lamb needs something that will cut the earthiness such as fresh mint. Straight beef is a strong flavor and when I use only beef I like to sauté the meatballs in the pan and use the fond to start the sauce. When I use a “meatloaf mix” I like to bake them in the oven and finish them in the sauce. If you want a meatball without traditional red sauce make sure you have a solid flavor profile and an optional sauce for serving such as a punchy yogurt sauce for lamb meatballs. Last but certainly not least, make sure that you make/taste a tester so that you are sure you have the flavor and seasoning that you want before you begin cooking the whole batch.
- The liquid: I use one egg to one pound of meat as a binder. If you don’t want to use eggs or you don’t have any on hand you can use ricotta as your binder and it doubles as a wonderfully flavorful source of moisture. Other sources of moisture are milk, ricotta (in addition to the egg) and other flavor sources will add to the moisture…
- The breadcrumbs: You can use fresh bread soaked in milk, plain or seasoned dry breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs.
- The flavorings: onion, shallots, garlic, chili flakes or paste, tomato paste, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, herbs, spices and good ol’ salt and pepper. Whatever flavor excites you, try it out. You can always add something to just your test patty and if it works incorporate it into the whole batch.
Here are some of the recipes that gave me the confidence to start modifying and making my own flavor combinations. I have made each of these recipes countless times over the years and they are always the crowd favorites.
I often wish that my grandma had written down her recipes, but if she had I probably would have just made those my whole life and never experimented to the extent that I have. Nothing will compare to hers, but I have made some incredibly flavorful meatballs over the years that just keep getting better with practice.
These are the most recent meatballs that I made and they were perfect. They were moist, not too dense, slightly spicy and so deeply flavored. The recipe I got from Season 2, Episode 2 of The Chef Show.