So, I don't know what happened, but lately, I've been obsessed with meatballs. I'm guessing it has something to do with needing adequate protein and salt and fat when you are dealing with insomnia—a phase I am thankfully coming out of. (That's another story for another day.) But when the body wants something, I think you should generally pay attention. Luckily, my body doesn't send me messages that it wants junk food. Whew!
I've struggled in the past to make meatballs that aren't too dry or flavorless. I've often bought frozen ones from Giacomo's, the Italian market and deli down the street from us. They're great in a pinch, but nothing substitutes your very own. These turned out better than expected, and guess what? They contain an ingredient from Giacomo's anyway—their incredible pork fennel sausage, which they make every day on the premises. I highly recommend using ground pork and a little bit of fennel (even if it's dried) in this recipe if you can't get a sausage with fennel in it. I got halfway through my prep and realized I didn't have two pounds of meat, so I ran down to Giacomo's and got the sausage and took it out of its casing because they were out of ground pork. I think it wound up making the meatballs even better.
I've adapted this from Mark Bittman's recipe for basic meatballs in How To Cook Everything. Seeing how he's all about eating veggies and being vegan before six p.m. these days, and providing us with meal deliveries, I don't think he'll mind. :) Baking the meatballs makes this a hands-off process; batch cooking two dozen of these babies in oil on the stovetop is much more time consuming and hands on.
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 T. unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup minced yellow onion
- 1 pound organic grassfed beef
- 1 pound organic pork (mine wasn't, but it was good and homemade)
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parm, if you've got it)
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A few tablespoons of oil of your choice for frying (if you are doing it the old-fashioned way)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or two (depending on size of your sheets) with aluminum foil. Set aside.
Combine the milk and breadcrumbs in a glass measuring cup.
Cook the onions in the butter over medium-high heat for about five minutes, until they've become softened and developed some color.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef and pork, using a fork to break up and combine the meats. Add the milk, onion, and all of the other ingredients, up to salt and pepper. Combine with a wooden spoon, a fork, your hands—whatever makes the most sense. This is a fairly tactile experience, so just go with it. You want everything to be evenly distributed.
Using a 1/4 cup scoop or your hands, form the mixture into balls and line them up on the tray. You should have about two dozen.
Bake at the specified temperature for about 15-18 minutes, stopping about halfway through to shake the tray so they don't stick and to rotate any meatballs that seem to need some browning. Cook until they start to brown and the internal temperature reaches 160°.
Option: I removed mine from the oven when they reached about 140°, filled a saute pan with a couple tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat, and browned them all the way around. I then returned them to the oven for another 3-4 minutes so they'd cook all the way through. You can certainly cook the meatballs this way and skip the oven altogether if you'd rather this process.
We ate these one night as mini meatball subs, and have been enjoying them as leftovers in various permutations, like the flavor and protein boost I added to some leftover penne.