Show Us Your Balls: Meatball Making with The Meatball Shop | Daniel Holzman | Skillshare

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Show Us Your Balls: Meatball Making with The Meatball Shop

teacher avatar Daniel Holzman, Co-Founder & Executive Chef, The Meatball Shop

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      This is How We Do: Sauce


    • 3.

      This is How We Do: Balls


    • 4.

      Hungry for More?


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About This Class

"There's really no wrong way to do a meatball..."

—Dan Holzman, The Meatball Shop Executive Chef, Food & Wine Magazine: Best of the Best 2013

This class is for anyone interested in the culinary art of the meatball. Whether you're a long-time chef, aspiring home-cook, or just general lover of meatballs, you're guaranteed to learn a ton. We'll take you behind the scenes of The Meatball Shop operation, right into our test kitchen in NYC to show you how we make our now famous meatballs and sauces. 

And then it's your turn. 

We're challenging you to show us your best balls. Invent a recipe or use your great-great-grandmother's. Tell us what inspired you and show us a picture of your final creation. 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Daniel Holzman

Co-Founder & Executive Chef, The Meatball Shop


I started my cooking career at age 15 at LeBernadin in NYC where I remained for 4 years until, at the suggestion of Chef Eric Ripert, I attended the Culinary Institute of America with a full scholarship from the James Beard Foundation. Prior to gradutation, I accepted a position at the Paladin in New York City for Chef Jean Louis Paladin, working alongside such culinary notables as Wylie Dufresene and Sam Mason.

Six months later, Jean Louis asked me if I would be willing to fill a vacancy at his flagship restaurant, Napa in the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. Accepting the offer, I began a 10-year culinary journey through some of Los Angeles and San Francisco's finest restaurants including The Campton Place, The Fifth Floor, Aqua and Jardinere.

I'm now the co-founder and executive... See full profile

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1. Introduction: All right guys. We're here at the Meatball Shop TMS Test Kitchen, where all the magic happens. This is where we make meatballs, where we make the sauce and where we are going to teach you how to make both. So, I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to cook because I could use bounce of what I'd consider to be a healthy dollop. I think we probably have 56 or 57 meatballs at this point. Wish you could get your hands in here and feel this. We figured it out, there's no wrong way to do this. My basic advice is, start with the absolute simplest way and if it works stop there. That's amazing. Perfect. "Oh my God." So, don't make [inaudible] meatballs. 2. This is How We Do: Sauce : Are you ready? Okay. So, we are going to make tomato sauce, classic simply simple tomato sauce,. It's a vegetarian sauce, it's a sauce that we make at the meatball shop. It's our most popular sauce, and if you follow these instructions, your sauce will be very delicious. I think the most important thing to think about whenever you're making a simple recipe, whenever you're cooking, ingredients are extremely important, but the simpler the recipe, the more important the quality of the individual ingredients become, because if you think about that, the less stuff you're putting in, the more important the individual components, each individual component becomes so that it shines through. So, especially with something like sauce, it's going to be cooked down, all of the flavors that you add are going to be magnified and you want to make sure that everything is top quality. For this recipe, we have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight ingredients, and when it's done hopefully, it'll have a really full complicated nuanced delicious tomato sauce flavor. First and foremost, I've got one large yellow onion. I'm actually not going to use this whole onion, it's a really large onion, I'm going to use about half of it. So, I'm just going to go ahead and dice it. Now, how finely I dice it has a lot to do with what I want, whether I want to have chunks in the end, so if I cut it a little bigger maybe I'll have some chunks in the end. For this particular sauce, I'm happy to have the onion just melt away, so I'm just going make this medium dice and then the little bolster piece I'm going to leave. I'm going to pop that right into my pot. I've got a heavy bottomed sauce pot which is very important because I don't want it to burn. Burnt saucer is like the pits. I'm going to put it on a medium heat. A big misconception with olive oil is, the most expensive olive oil is the best. The most expensive olive oil is not the best, it's like metal, right? Like gold is gold the best because it's the most expensive, it's the best for jewellery maybe, you definitely don't want to buy something like a copper bracelet and go, "Hey honey, I love you." But it's not the best for making a hammer out of. If you made a hammer out of gold, it would be just terrible, it wouldn't work at all. So, it would be awesome actually, I would love it if someone made a golden hammer, I want one so bad. Olive oil is very similar. So, when you're cooking, you want to use a light olive oil, something that doesn't have a very strong flavor because that strong flavor- we are making tomato sauce, we are not making the olive oil sauce. The olive oil is a really important components, we only fat we're going to add to the sauce. So, it's going to add a lot of flavor and texture in the end which you'll see. So, I will throw the onions in and then I'm going to be healthy with the olive oil. When I'm putting olive oil in, the olive oil is a component of the sauce that I care about. Olive oil does two super important things. Fat is what translates flavor. So your tongue is like these bumps of- what are they called, those taste buds and the olive oil, it coats your tongue and it allows the flavor to transfer through. You can do the test where you make a soup like a cauliflower soup or something that's just purely cauliflower and water together after its cooked, onions, and taste it, it has very little cauliflower flavor. Then add heavy cream to it and then taste it, it's like "Oh my God," it pops with cauliflower flavor. That's because the fat is what actually is transmitting the flavor to your tongue. When it comes to cooking, the pot is the same as your tongue, It's this metal surface and very little touches it. So, if you put an onion just on the metal surface, it will have little burn pieces and then little raw pieces. The olive oil is what allows it to cook super evenly and distribute the heat so that all they cook together. So, I'm going to go generous with the olive oil. People like burnt garlic, I definitely do not like burnt garlic. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to go ahead and add the onions first. The moisture from the onions are going to keep the garlic from burning. Now, if you wanted to twist the garlic first, what I do is I put the garlic in with the olive oil. I'll let the flavor come and right before it starts to get any color of brown, I'll throw the onions in and that'll slow it down and stop it. But from this case, I'm just going to crush it, give it a little chop and throw it right in. One bay leaf right in the pot. I have got some oregano, I'm going to take maybe two or three branches of oregano, fresh oregano, put them right in, then we put a little pinch of chilli flakes. Chilli flakes are really important. So, there are some spices and some herbs that are water-soluble and there's some spices and herbs that are fat-soluble. Chilli is a fat soluble product. Because of that, we're going to be very careful with chilli flakes any spice whenever you add it. I always start with a really minimal amount. We are just going to grow a little pinch in there, because I can always add more later but you can never take that spice away. Sometimes, it'll take four to five minutes for the spice to really distribute through it. So, I'll be finishing my sauce, I put a pinch, I mix it, I taste it, I'm like, "That's not spicy," I put another pitch. I'm like, "That's not spicy," I put another pinch. Five minutes later, it's great too spicy to eat. So, put a pinch, give it some time, let's think about it, we can always add more later. Another piece of the puzzle like garlic, chilli burns, all kinds of pepper burns and that leaves a really bitter, interesting off taste which they use in some dishes, not going to use it here so, I'm using the chilli later on. If I don't want something to get color, I'll add the salt early when I'm cooking onions but when I want to get color on my onions, I'll add no salt, hot flame, coil, throw the anions in and cook it, don't add any salt until they got their color. If I want to make sure that it doesn't get any color, I'll go ahead and I'll add the salt early because the salt will actually draw the moisture out of the onions, which will help it to boil. You can hear, it starts cracking, that's that water coming out of the onions, boiling on this bottom of the pan and stopping the onions from getting any color. So, I'm cooking this for 15 minutes and I'm noticing that some color is starting to happen on the bottom right-hand. I'm not worried about that at all. When I add my tomatoes, that's all going to come off. That brown color, this "fron" as they call it, I guess in French people, is the sugar from the onions starting to caramelize on the bottom of the pan. It is creating that flavor, that sweetness that you're looking for, that's what I'm doing here. So, at certain point, my onions are starting to get color, there's nothing I can do about it. That's how I'm, okay, now I know, all of the water has boiled out of my onions, there is no more water in there, and they're starting to actually get a little bit of color and I can either slow down by adding water or I can take the next step. The next step is tomato paste. Tomato paste is really strong flavored ingredient and it's extremely important, let's treat it well. If you don't cook tomato paste enough, you will have a raw tomato flavor in your sauce forever. So, what you want to do is you want to take your tomato paste and drop it in. I've got a tablespoon of tomato paste and I'm going to cook it, I'm going to mix it and I'm going to cook it and the tomato paste, at first it will stick and it will start to fry in the oil. Then what I want, is I want a really deep, brick red color out of my tomato paste. That's when I know it's ready and you could see the oil is getting steamed bright red from the tomato. I am taking my time to make sure that that tomato paste cooks. This is the most important piece of the puzzle, not rushing this step. If you look at the bottom of the pot, you can see that it's starting to get really this brown froned on the bottom, that's all the sugars starting to stick, tomato paste has gone from red to just brick red, it has stained all the onions, all the oil is bright red. I could smell the tomato paste, it smells like frying tomato paste. Now I know it's time to add my tomatoes. Now, I only have these big cans of tomatoes, I'm in a big restaurants but, obviously you don't have that. When I add my tomatoes, I have peeled tomatoes. I'm just going to go ahead and give them a mix and bring it up to a simmer and I'm going to let this simmer for probably, this will take about 35 minutes before it's done for this amount of sauce with this size pot. When the oil is no longer floating on the top and starts to emulsifies with tomatoes, that's how you know that your sauce is done. When I'm looking at this, I'm saying, well, for the amount of sauce that we need, this sauce pot is really flat and wide and therefore it cooked a little bit faster. I'm going add a little bit of water so that it gives it some time to cook the tomatoes through. Once that water is cooked out and we're back to that same consistency again, this sauce is going to be done, it is going to be perfect. I'm putting the top of halfway. A, it stops flattering sauce everywhere. B, you lose some of the steam and some of the water drips back down into the pot. You could see that water will drip off of the pot. When the steam is dripping back down and that's reincorporating some of the water which is actually slowing down the evaporation process, which in turn is slowing down the cooking thus giving more time for the tomatoes. We've been cooking for probably 45 minutes. So, I'm going to give this guy a taste and see what it is seasoning-wise. See the oil and tomatoes emulsified and come together. But I think it's actually really delicious and it needs a little bit more salt. We are going to wait for that to dissolved and I'm really mixing before I taste it again. Just like the chilli flakes, the salt needs to dissolve and get distributed before you taste it. If you like your sauce nice and chunky, you could serve it just like this. But if you prefer it a little smoother, you can give it a blend. I would get the bay leaf, get the oregano stems right out of there. Throw the blender. If you got one of those emulsion blenders, you can give it a little blend. I love a chunky texture especially, if I'm going to be serving it over meatballs or over spaghetti, over pasta, it adds a beautiful texture. But, if you prefer, you can blend it and you can definitely do have in-between. In the restaurants, we will take half of it out and blend it or just blend it halfway so it has some texture. But that's it, that's all it takes and we can really tasty this sauce and no more. It's okay. 3. This is How We Do: Balls: I guess we're here at the meatball making facility to show you guys how to make meatballs, which is really really simple. So, I don't think anybody needs to be intimidated. We're going to make our beef meatballs today, which is our most popular meatball and I guess the whole idea of meatballs is it's the perfect food to start learning how to cook with, it's the perfect food to serve for a big party. So, the general gist is we have about two pounds of ground beef, which is makes enough meatballs for four to six people. Any time you start with two pounds of meat you've got about four to six people worth of meatballs and we have a magic ratio that we follow for all of our recipes which is basically, for every pound of meat we put a teaspoon of salt, we put one egg and we put either one slice of bread or one quarter cup of bread crumbs and then whatever seasoning we want to kind of make it into the flavor profile of the meatballs that we're looking for and we mix them up and we roll them and roast them. So, with those steps anybody can kind of meat ball out of any meat and any flavor profile. For this, which is our classic beef meatball, it's kind of a medium complicated meatball recipe if that makes sense. We have recipes that have only five ingredients and we have some recipes that have 30 or 40 ingredients. So, I don't think that anybody needs to be intimidated. There's something for everybody and that's that. Awesome. So, the first and foremost I'm going to mix two pounds of ground beef, shoulder cut is what we're using, so when you go to the supermarket and you see different types of ground meat, you have a lot of different choices. So, at the meatball shop we choose to grind our own meat and it works for us. We make a lot of meatballs. You might have a meat grinder at your house which is awesome. In which case you can choose your meat as well and I would say either chuck or beef shoulder works really well because it has a lot of flavor. It's a well worked muscle and it has a great fat content and fat is really important when it comes to making meatballs because that's what gives that kind of moist appeal when you eat it. The fat is the moisture. But generally in our daily lives we just use kind of pre-ground meat and so when you are shopping for ground beef, it's nice to shop for something that has a higher fat content. So, we see it on the package it'll say like 80 percent lean or 72 percent lean or 90 percent lean and that's the ratio of lean to fat, lean meat fat and so you want to go with a lower ratio. So 72 percent isn't always available but you can go to a butcher shop and get that, and usually 80 percent is sort of always good for that. Another way to incorporate a little bit more fat into meatballs, to maybe add cheese. A lot of times when we're making a meatball that has an infusion like the steak bacon cheddar meatball of cheddar cheese and I want the cheddar cheese flavor to be prevalent, we'll actually cut the cheese and we'll dice it into large pieces and mix that in and then when it melts it kind of melts meatball and you taste this kind of bigger cheddar cheese chunks as you're eating through it. So, that's something to think about in general as when I'm making this meatball, do I want everything to be the same texture or do I want different sizes. Reuben meatballs. It's like a pretty easy one. We have a Reuben meatball which means that a Reuben sandwich classically has Swiss cheese and so we'll put Swiss cheese in that meatball. A more Italian, classic Italian meatball might have pecorino and parmesan. Ricotta cheese is an interesting one because it offers a lot of moisture and it also gives a really really supple texture to the end of your meatball almost like a spongy quality that only ricotta for some reason gives. You might need a fresh cheese dip so fresh versus aged. There are a couple of misconceptions about meatballs in general. I guess one of them is how friendly and density to pack your meatball and how that's going to affect the overall texture. You want to pack it because you don't want your balls to break apart when you're roasting them. But the ingredients you put in are the most important for the texture, and ricotta cheese is a great one to create a really fluffy texture and also add a little bit of fat which will add some moisture. Ricotta from Calabro which I happen to love, and we use at the restaurant but any ricotta cheese will work. It's not like you want to use the super fancy, most expensive ricotta cheese because it's just going to be mixed in. So, this is something to think about. I'm going to put what I would consider to be a healthy dollop of ricotta cheese right in there. And then bread or breadcrumbs. So, every single meat ball has eggs, meat and bread or breadcrumbs. The bread just plays a really important role because it A, it soaks up all the fat as your meatballs are roasting and soaks up all the flavors that your meatballs are roasting and it keeps them on the inside, B, the bread actually is what creates a really supple texture. So, the more bread you put in, the more soft your meatballs will be. A lot of people they think that the more expensive their item is, the better it is. I mean we equate quality with price and so you think well I'm going to put the the most expensive meat in, I'm going put more of the meat and less of the cheap stuff, the bread, I'm going to have a better meat ball when in fact you'll have a tougher meatball and you might prefer that but if you're looking for what we kind of think is a really great meatball you want to go with something that has a good amount of filler. I would use this much bread, a whole hamburger bun or two slices or half it here or roll, for two pound meatball. For grinding your own meat I would definitely suggest going in that direction because you can kind of just cut the bread into some strips, drop them right in the grinder with the meat and then make the meatball. If you don't have a grinder but you want to use fresh bread, what I would say is you can just cut them into kind of a little dice like so and when you mix your meatballs after you are done roasting you'll kind of find these little tiny pieces left in there that when you bite into them are just so refreshingly delicious, will be for the life of your own party. Or I could go with breadcrumbs. At the restaurant we have a lot of leftover bread so we can dry it and grind it up and have our own breadcrumbs. If you buy your own, if you buy breadcrumbs someone's going to get angry at you. So, I would definitely go with something that doesn't have any seasoning because the last thing you want to do is kind of take the manufacture of seasonings and add it to your meatballs and then who knows what that messes with your flavor profile. So, I'll go with just kind of plain Italian breadcrumbs and again the same ratio of one quarter cup of bread crumbs for every pound of meat. I've got two pounds of meat and two quarter cups of breadcrumbs. When you are cooking anything, just like we talk about with cheese you want to start with the kind of end product and decide where you're going to go backwards and the figure out your flavor profile and then build your spices or your herbs into it. The herbs and spices that you choose are very very important because they're going to create the flavor at the end and you don't want to haphazardly just kind of add something like we're going with an Italian meatball we're going to go with parsley and oregano, garlic and white wine and fennel seed, maybe curry but you don't want to necessarily be like oh I'm going to go curry and oregano or I'm going to go with basil and sage. You might want to go basil and sage, I don't know. Thats on parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. They all go really well together. That's for real. For our meatballs today we're going with just parsley and oregano and one of my favorite parts about the meatballs I don't have to be too precious about the stems or anything, they taste great in there. So, I just kind of chop them up, stems and all and I like to have them a little bit rough, I don't care to have everything too finely chopped because I think a little bit of texture in the end is nice. If the oregano has really thick stems you can kind of pick it. But certainly at the top of the bunch you just give it a chop. For these I've got about a half a cup of parsley and maybe a quarter cup of fresh oregano. You can use dried oregano. But I wouldn't use dried parsley. I have maybe two teaspoons because I have two pounds of meat that I'm starting with. Add salt and I prefer kosher salt but that's because these meatballs are awesome so you should prefer kosher salt too which is why you're here. Secret. Two eggs. Someone told me that if you crack them on a flat surface you never get any shell in there which was amazing. It was like a revelation for me. I used to crack them on the side of the bowl and I thought it looked really cool but I would always get shells in the meatballs, always. Then I thought there's probably like one shell 24 meatballs, by the time someone eats one, what are the chance they even know it's a shell? Crack them flat and you don't even have to think about that. It's like skip the stuff. Although, my mom taught me how to get that shell out of the egg using the shell you know about that? It's amazing you just, the shell attract shell. You know when you go to pick the shell and it just runs away no matter where you go. You take a little piece of shell and you scoop it out and it's like some sort of animal magnetism. Then I'm going to give it a good mix. So, two pounds of meat, two teaspoons of salt, I have a couple of breadcrumbs, two eggs, quarter cup of parsley, quarter cup of oregano. I think I got them mixed up. Healthy dollop of ricotta cheese and then I'm going to go to town. Whenever we're mixing a meatballs there's another crazy misconception people are like, "Oh you just want to just barely mix it together." That's absolutely not the case. You can definitely over mix it but you want to give it a really strong and healthy mix. Because what winds up happening is the protein in meat starts to stick together and it forms into like a forced meat. Meatballs and meatloaf or paté are all basically the exact same thing just in different forms. So, whenever you make any of them, you want to really mix them well until the protein starts to stick together. But what you don't want is the heat from your hand is start to melt the fat. So, you want to mix it vigorously but quickly. That make sense? Vigorous and quick. It's my motto when it comes to meatballs. Let me use both hands. I couldn't just stop myself. It's amazing. Oh, my God, look at that. I wish you could see this. I wish you could just get your hands in here and feel this. That's perfect. Well, I'm going to go wash my hands and then we're going to roll these things up. So, the deal is, the tedious part of making meatball is rolling. We all have these memories, maybe you don't but I do, of my grandmother, not really, my grandma never made meatballs. But if she did, I would have a memory of her slaving over the table rolling meatballs for hours, until they invented the ice cream scoop which is a great multi-purpose tool for both scooping ice cream and scooping meatballs or any other thing you want to portion. One of the more important when it comes to making meatballs things in my opinion, is making sure that every meatball is the same size and that's important because obviously you don't want to be the guy that gets the little tiny balls when you're all eating dinner together. You also want to make sure that everything cooks at the same time. So, you don't want to be the guy that really overcooked balls and that someone else has the supple moist perfectly across the table from you and you start getting jealous. So, what we do is we use an ice cream scoop because it makes the perfect meatball the same size every time and they make all different size meatball ice cream scoops. So, this is the one with the yellow handle which is two ounces by volume. That also happens to come out at two ounces by weight. For us at the meatball shop that winds up being the perfect size. They have a purple handle scoop which make a one ounce meatball which is great for cocktails and you can have a little toothpick in there and have dainty balls. But I just fill it with meat, I flatten it off completely and then I scoop and I don't and there's the next step which is going to be rolling but I'm just going to go ahead and portion them all out. As a person whose job actually revolves around this eight hours a day, five days a week and we're three years in, people who make meatballs for thousands of years, I wonder how many hours were wasted before the ice cream scoop revolutionized the meatball. Talk about just efficiency. If I was a real master, there would be exactly enough but I have some tiny meatball leftover. Then once I get them all portioned and scooped, I'm just going to go ahead and give them a little roll to impact them and make them more around so that they're not meat oddities but they are meatballs. I like to line them up and make them all touch in a grid. It's great and helpful because you can see if there's something out of place like maybe one of the meatball is really small. Maybe if I had this little tiny ball and I put it over here, you'd be like, "Oh, there's something wrong with that one." People are all just like you fry your meatballs first, you braise your meatballs, you roast your meatballs and the truth is that, we cook meatballs in a lot of different ways. We're a meatball-centric restaurant so we have 55 different or 56 different types of meatballs and, well, I think we probably have 56 or 57 different types of meatballs at this point. Yeah, we figured it out. There's no wrong way to do it. So, my basic advice is start with the absolute simplest way and if it works to stop there, and then if you need to do it a little differently you can try. So, roasting works really well. It's clean and it's easy and it's fast, so I like to roast the meatballs. How am I doing? Look at these things. Beautiful. Every single meatball. I'm not even watching I'm just looking straight ahead and look at how these balls are just perfectly round. I like to do eight ounces of meatball, four balls per person. One two three four five and like maybe I've invited another person coming to dinner. So, that would be four to six portions. You could go this way and have one two three four if they are fat people. But, whichever way you like it, you got meatballs for the family and then we're just going to pop in the oven. Four hundred and twenty five degrees for 17 minutes we'll make a perfect meatball. Every single time. Provided that we followed our instructions and with the two ounces. So, when you're making meatballs, making meatballs it's like baking any time that you are unable to change the finished product after it's cooked, that or during the cooking process, you're going to be really careful that you get the seasoning right. When I'm cooking a sauce or I'm making a stew or something, I'm tasting it as I'm going, I'm thinking, "I need a little more salt, I can add a little bit more salt. I can wait till the end. I could put some salt and mix it in." With your meatballs you get one chance. After the rolling roasted there's no adding any salt to them or adding any spice and so the most important thing you can do is take your mixed meat, make a little hamburger sized patty, tiny little patty, flatten it out put in a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil, cook it and you taste it and then you say to yourself, "Wow, all right. Perfect. I'm going to go ahead and roll these and roast them." Or you say to yourself, "Oh, my God, I completely forgot to add the salt or those are way too salty." The last thing you want to do is make all your meatballs roast. Have them simmering in the sauce that you worked in all day long. Invite all your friends over. Pull them out and put them on the table and they're like these would have been awesome if you would have just added another pinch of salt instead they're coming out a little shitty. So, don't make shitty meatballs. Cook off a tester patty and adjust the seasoning before you roll. 4. Hungry for More?: