Meatballs (for “Spaghetti and …”)

Meatballs are one of my favorite “comfort foods.” At least good meatballs are! It is so easy to make good ones, and here’s my favorite recipe, modified from Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking.

1 lb ground chuck
2 slices homestyle white bread, crusts removed
1/2 c milk
1/4 c minced onion
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
1/2 tsp salt (approximately)
3 TB grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
fine dry breadcrumbs (optional)

Tear the bread into pieces. Bring the milk to a boil and pour over the bread, stirring so the bread absorbs the milk. Let cool then add to a large bowl with all other ingredients except the bread crumbs. Mix gently but thoroughly using your fingers. A prime cause of rubbery meatballs is too much handling, so take it easy and never use a mixer! The goal is not a completely uniform paste but a mixture where some pieces of bread are still distinct. Pinch off a tablespoon of the mixture and cook in in a small frypan. Taste and add more salt to the mixture if needed. Form into balls 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, again being as gentle as possible. At this point in the recipe, opinions diverge as regards cooking the meatballs. There are three schools of thought:

1. Drop the meatballs directly into your simmering tomato sauce. Cover and cook for at least an hour. Do not stir until they have cooked for at least 20 minutes – this lets the eggs set and makes the meatballs more resistant to breaking up. You may need to skim accumulated fat off the sauce before serving. This cooking method lets the flavors of the sauce and meatballs meld.

2. Roll the meatballs in the breadcrumbs and sauté slowly in olive oil, turning regularly, until browned and cooked through, about half an hour. Serve separately from the sauce. This method keeps the meatball and sauce flavors separate.

3. Follow method 2 but sauté the meatball just until browned, then add to the sauce. The middle road approach.

Explore posts in the same categories: Beef, Pasta

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