It’s amazing how a simple plate of spaghetti and meatballs can really hit the spot.
Meatballs were always a part of my childhood. When I was little, my grandparents would come visit from New York. My Italian grandmother wouldn’t be off the plane for 5 minutes and we’d be digging in her bag. She always brought a frozen container (or 5) of meatballs and sauce – her meatballs and sauce. I’ve talked about her sauce in a previous post, but her meatballs are worthy of 10 blog posts. They are packed with flavor and so soft you could sleep on them. They do have that crispy crust on them, but the inside is always light and fluffy.
She could never provide a recipe, because like me, she cooks on the fly with ‘a little bit of this and a little bit of that’.
So, I can’t offer you a meatball recipe either. But, I can give you the inspiration you need to make your own.
Ground beef is really just a blank canvas. There’s really nothing to it, as far as flavor goes. You need an arsenal of seasonings to make it worth eating.
I always start with a big bowl. Dump in the ground beef (about a pound or a little more) and go from there. Constants are an egg and breadcrumbs. I either use Italian bread crumbs, which are already seasoned, or I use panko breadcrumbs (1/2 cup), which will give it a lighter consistency.
From there, the possibilities are endless. When I made them this week, I also grated in 2 cloves of garlic, added a palmful of dried oregano (grind it in your hands first), half a palmful of dried basil (see note about oregano), about a 1/4 cup of fresh-grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.
You really can’t go wrong here. If you like onion, add some minced onion. If you like roasted red peppers, dice some and throw them in the bowl. Fresh flat-leaf parsley is also a good choice. Fresh chopped basil leaves would be great, too.
Don’t be afraid. You’re the artist. The meat is your masterpiece in the making. Your pantry, refrigerator and herb garden are your palette.
I baked mine in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes. They sat on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
To make it easier, before work I mixed the meat and rolled the meatballs, set them on the cookie sheet, covered it with foil and left it in the refrigerator. When I got home from work I put the pan in the oven.
I used the sauce I made a few weeks ago (Ghetti Gravy). It was sitting in the freezer waiting to make my day.
Tip: Meatballs really benefit from the sauce. If you have leftovers, store them in the leftover sauce. You can even freeze them that way (just like my grandmother). If you have a lot of time… bake your meatballs and then drop them in a pot of sauce. Cover and cook on low for at least an hour. The flavor they soak-up will be well worth the wait!