Pulling inspiration from my family and my kitchen, I tested three meatball recipes.
1. A Mediterannean meatball inspired by my aunt, Ann.
2. The Two-Parter, which I came up with at the awesome butcher shop in my neighborhood – McCall's Meat & Fish.
3. The Hand Me Down, which is my family recipe.
I'll start with my favorite first.
This recipe began with my grandma, Claudia, and was later perfected by my mom, Marie. They're both fantastic Italian cooks.
Out of the three recipes I tested, this was the crowd favorite. DiLorenzo, ladies...take a bow.
Here's what you'll need to make this thang:
The combination of beef, pork, and veal is key here. Call ahead and ask your local butcher for the pork and veal since they're not typically pre-ground in the cold case. And, I went with the burger mix for the beef – more fat = more better.
Also, note that since I was testing three batches of meatballs at once, this recipe was designed to produce a half-batch (2-4 people). Double it if you'd like more meatballs!
Mix first with a wooden spoon to combine, and then work everything together with your hands. This will prevent the fat from melting / over-handling your meat.
I took Chef Holtzman's advice and made a tiny test patty.
It was delicious. If yours is not how you like it, this is your chance to meddle before everything goes into the oven. Awesome advice. Thanks, Daniel. I also used the ice cream scoop and roll method to get nice, uniform balls.
Now, this recipe differs from The Meatball Shop's m.o. in that the meatballs are pan fried pre-sauce as opposed to roasted.
This is where you can opt out and go the roasting route if you'd like. It's cleaner. It's simpler. But I cannot deny that these fried and then simmered balls were awesome. The roasted ones were too, though and I will probably be roasting many balls in the future.
If you're frying, get out a wide, shallow pan and heat up about a 1/4" of veg oil. Wait until it's hot enough that you don't want to hold your hand over it, and put your balls in. Turn to brown on all sides and cook in batches. Remove and drain on a paper towel.
As for sauce, it's best to start it before the meatball making begins so that the tomatoes have simmered by the time your balls are ready. When the sauce is ready and the balls are cooked, combine in your heavy bottom sauce pot and simmer until you're ready to serve. Add water if the sauce reduces too much and then re-salt a tad if necessary.
Mmm. Serve over pasta, on a piece of bread, or as is.
Here were the runners up. They are also super delicious.
A lamb meatball with artichoke hearts and harissa. If you like lamb, this is very tasty.
Here's what you need:
After roasting (and a blast under the broiler for color):
Serve with harissa and yogurt, cucumbers, a little lime. Go nuts.
I devised this last meatball with my butcher. Pork other pork = good.
A ground pork meatball with guanciale, chili flakes, and fennel seed. I served this with the same batch of tomato sauce but I think a guanciale / tomato chutney would be very, very good.
What you'll need:
Note: I crisped up the guanciale in a shallow pan before adding to the mix. Also, if you have whole fennel seeds and no coffee / spice grinder, put them in a ziploc and bash/roll with a rolling pin.
Tiny test bite:
Serve with sauce or...something else delicious!
That concludes documentation of my marathon meatball making. I see many meatballs in my future.