As an Italian-American, I think it’s almost required of me to share my personal recipe for Italian Meatballs. And these meatballs are worth sharing! Tender, full of garlic and Parmesan flavor, and long braised in tomato sauce, these meatballs would be welcome at any table. Eat them with pasta, as appetizers, simmering in a slow cooker on a buffet, in meatball sandwiches. They are always delicious. The only problem will be keeping your family from eating them out of the pot before you even put them on the table. Yes, I’m looking at my daughter right now. 🙂
I’ve talked many times about my love of fresh fruits and vegetables and how much I enjoy visiting my local farm stands. That is where my heart is.
However, Italian-American food, especially Italian comfort food, that is where my home is. These are the dishes of holidays and family get-togethers that bring me right back home. In my family it wasn’t a party until someone brought out the meatballs or the ravioli or the stuffed shells. So I suppose it’s not a surprise that when my husband made me Chicken Parmesan Casserole, he got the girl! Expect more Italian and Italian influenced dishes here as I continue sharing recipes with all of you, both ones that fit my two loves, like the Caprese Salad with Burrata, and some that are more comforting and cheesy and meaty and full of tomato sauce, like these meatballs!
A few points about the meatballs as I make them.
First, I go back and forth between all beef and a beef/pork mixture for the meat. (I’ve removed the veal from my mix entirely, since it makes things simpler.) I do enjoy the pork for its addition of flavor to the mix, but it’s harder to find organic, ground pork, and I highly prefer to purchase organic ground meats as much as possible. I feel these meatballs are darn tasty either way so, for me at least, it all depends on what I can find at the store for meat.
Second, too many eggs make a hard meatball. Just say no! I like one egg per pound of meat for structure and then sometimes I add an extra egg yolk if I want more flavor. You won’t ruin the batch if you add a second whole egg, but you’ll be happier with the results if you don’t.
Third, don’t be shy about the garlic and add plenty of grated parmesan and parsley to the mix. Along with the dried oregano, these are the flavors that say ‘Italian Meatball’ to your taste buds. Don’t let your taste buds down.
And, finally, the breadcrumbs. Fresh is the way to go and definitely mix them with some milk for flavor and tenderness. Yes, I have used dried breadcrumbs in meatballs. Sometimes that’s all you have in the house. And, hey, it makes meatballs. Though, let’s admit it, not the best meatballs and that is what we are going for here! But, you say, I don’t have any fresh bread to use when I want to make the meatballs. Well, I have the answer to that. 🙂 Start grinding up extra rolls and the ends of breads that were all going to go moldy anyway since no one was eating them, and put those fresh breadcrumbs (unless you needed them that day) into the freezer. They won’t last forever, but they will last about a month and that is plenty of time to get to the store and buy some ground beef and plan a meatball dinner.
Those meatballs up above look tasty, don’t they? I’m getting hungry and I’ve eaten a pile of them! There is something about meatballs that is hard to resist.
The last part of my recipe is the cooking method. And, in my opinion, frying the meatballs to create a good sear and then braising them in tomato sauce produces the best flavor. Both for the meatballs and for the sauce! The meatballs get a little caramelization and then stay all tender while you cook them in the sauce at low heat while the sauce takes on the flavor from the meatballs. Yum!
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- kosher salt
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, pureed in the blender
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lb ground beef, or half ground beef and half ground pork
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 oz parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, plus another 1/2 cup if needed
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk, optional
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- For the sauce: Before you start the meatballs, get the sauce done and simmering. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-safe pot over medium-low heat and add garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Saute for 1 minute and then add tomatoes, oregano, and bay leaves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring sauce to a boil, reduce to low and let simmer while you make the meatballs.
- For the meatballs: Preheat oven to 300F.
- Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well, but gently. If you think it needs some more breadcrumbs or the egg yolk, add them now and mix in the additions.
- To portion out the meatballs, I like to use a cookie scoop. It goes very fast and they all end up the same size. However you portion them, take each meatball and roll them between your hands until they are well shaped and then lay them out on a cookie sheet or a plate.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the meatballs in batches and brown them all over, about 5-6 minutes per batch. (One pound of meat takes me two batches.) As you finish the meatballs, add them to the sauce. Once all the meatballs have been browned and added to the sauce, cover the pot and put it in the oven. Braise the meatballs for at least 2 hours, but they can sit in the oven at that temperature for 4-6 hours.
- When you are ready to eat, serve the meatballs with pasta, on rolls, or by themselves as an appetizer or on a buffet.
If you want to use a slow cooker, add the meatballs and sauce to the slow cooker and cook for 6-8 hours.
Cooked or raw, meatballs freeze beautifully. If raw, thaw the meatballs and continue with the recipe as stated. If cooked, let thaw in the fridge until thawed enough that you can pour them into a pot. Heat them through on the stove and eat.
I like mid-sized meatballs, so I used my #40 cookie scoop to make them.