The Perfect Meatball

Bringing back an Italian tradition

 


One thing that I never order when eating out is meatballs.

Why? In my opinion, meatballs are one of the most underplayed components of almost every Italian restaurant’s menu. I’m not saying that everyone gets them wrong, but the fact is that more often than not, they are under-seasoned balls of nondescript beef that are dry and boring.

I often wonder why people settle for this, but when I think about it, I may have my standards set too high. You see, the first recipe taught to me in my grandmother’s kitchen were meatballs, cooked to be added to a Sunday Sauce.

In those days, I was taught to measure the proper ingredients by the feel of the mixture in my hands. I took these lessons very seriously, and in time I mastered them and began to improve upon them. Today, it is rare that I serve the following recipe to a client. However, it’s very often that these tasty traditional treats adorn my own family table, which is what really counts when the day is done.

Grandma’s Italian Meatballs

Makes 12 medium-sized meatballs

½ pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground veal
1 medium yellow onion (small dice)
4 cloves of garlic (small dice)
2 tbls. chopped Italian Parsley (rough chop)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 egg (beaten)
½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt (plus more to season to taste)
Olive oil for sauté and frying

In a sauté pan, add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan and set the flame to medium. Allow the olive to heat through and add the onions with a good pinch of salt. Allow to sweat until translucent and add the garlic. Continue sweating this mixture until the garlic begins to take on color, but do not let it brown. Immediately remove the mixture from the pan to cool and spread out over parchment paper or a foil-lined sheet pan.

In a large bowl, begin assembling the remaining ingredients. Add the chopped meats, egg and parsley. With clean hands (hands are the best utensil to use for this preparation), mix the contents of the bowl. Then add the onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, Pecorino Romano, pepper and salt. Mix again with your hands until fully combined. Create a small test meatball (you must taste for seasoning).

Fill a fry pan with enough olive oil to come 1/2 of the way up the test meatball. Put the flame on medium and allow the oil to heat through. Next, add the test meatball to the pan. Watch carefully to assure that the oil isn’t too hot. The meatball shouldn’t sear immediately but should instead stay 2–3 minutes on each side between turning. Once it has browned on each side, remove to a paper towel to drain. Once cooled, give it a taste. If it needs more salt or pepper, add it now.

When happy with the mixture, begin to roll out your meatballs. Be careful not to make them too big or you risk not cooking them through. You should be able to roll out 12 meatballs. 

Add them to the oil, again making sure they do not burn. Lower or raise the flame as necessary, but remember that these will be further cooked in sauce or the oven. Once they are browned on both sides, you have two options. One- you could continue to bake them in a 350 degree oven, covered in foil, for thirty minutes and then serve them dry with sauce on the side. Two, my favorite- you can add them to your favorite sauce and simmer them for 15-20 minutes and spoon them over your favorite pasta. What’s great about this method is that the flavors of the sauce and meatballs mix and bolster each other.

No matter how you do it, they will taste great and can be even better the next day.

--

After working in the New York City restaurant scene, Eric Guido branched out, organizing private dining and tasting events centered around Italian cuisine and wine. Here he began to incorporate food photography and recipe development.  His continuing work can be seen at www.theviptable.net. Eric’s passion for food and wine is fueled by the togetherness and satisfaction found at the table.

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Comments

  • I recently was in a high end Italian restaurant in NY and I was really pining for spaghetti and meatballs. The menu had a lot of other great sounding dishes, both traditional and fancy. But I wanted S & MB, so that's what I (tried) to order. The waitress said 'You REALLY don't want to order that." I said, but that's what I'm craving. She said "Then go home and make them, don't order them here." So I didn't.

    Mar 07, 2012 at 4:59 PM


  • Snooth User: HallStars4
    245383 12

    Thank You Thank You - I have been craving a great meatball recipe.
    I am looking forward to a wonderful meal tonight!

    Mar 07, 2012 at 6:07 PM


  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 165,690

    I'm happy to provide.

    It's sad isn't it Larry. Once in a blue moon I'm pleasantly surprised.

    When I was a kid, if you asked what my family's favorite restaurant was, they'd look at you sideways and then make a reference to my Grandmother's kitchen.

    Mar 07, 2012 at 7:02 PM


  • Thanks Eric! You are so right about how many times I've order this based upon a craving and was terribly disappointed. This really does look "perfect". Can't wait to try!

    Mar 07, 2012 at 7:33 PM


  • Nothing better than great sauce and meatballs! Do you have a sauce recipe you are willing to share? Thanks for posting!!!

    Mar 07, 2012 at 10:48 PM


  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 165,690

    I'll be happy to work up a sauce recipe for publication in the near future. I have plenty but all in my head. I like to test them before committing them to paper.

    Mar 07, 2012 at 11:42 PM


  • Snooth User: Alfred47
    816387 8

    Hi, Guido, so what do you do with the onions/garlic cloves? Were they just meant to flavour the oil or do you use them in a sauce?
    Fred

    Mar 08, 2012 at 3:03 AM


  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 165,690

    Alfred, thank you for mentioning this, I made a silly assumption. The garlic and onions goes into the meatball recipe when you add the cheese and bread crumbs component. I'll see if Snooth can edit this into the recipe.

    Mar 08, 2012 at 6:38 AM


  • Snooth User: amyces
    340230 4

    ALWAYS searching for great MB recipe. Very excited to try this one! Thank you :)

    Mar 08, 2012 at 9:01 AM


  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 165,690

    Alfred, Onion and Garlic issue fixed, thanks again for noticing.

    Mar 08, 2012 at 9:56 PM


  • Snooth User: Jude461
    856328 1

    my grandmother alway used an egg in the mixture and added all of the wet ingredients to the meat first which would include the olive oil and onions and then the dry ingredients such a as the breadcrumbs and cheese. It may seem trivial, however her meat balls were always light and moist and mine were hard and chewy. we both used the same ingredients but mine were never the same consistency. I finally asked her the secret to her success and she was absolutely right. the secret is to stop adding the dry ingrdients when you get just the right consistency. practice makes perfect!

    Mar 09, 2012 at 12:08 AM


  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 165,690

    I understand exactly what you're talking about, like I said up above, " I was taught to measure the proper ingredients by the feel of the mixture in my hands."

    However, I can't right recipes that way. To explain to someone what that proper consistency feels like would be very hard. Also, my meatballs were good back then, sometimes great... but even today I don't cook like that and I would never attempt to train one of my staff that way. This is why we always make a test meatball. That test meatball always tells us what the batch is missing.

    This recipe is the best I could put to paper without leaving too many open variables.

    Mar 09, 2012 at 5:53 AM


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