How to Make Meatballs

Almost everyone remembers mom’s meatballs she made when they were kids. Whether she added them to spaghetti, served them with a cream or gravy-based sauce, or used them as a main course with mashed potatoes or buttered noodle, my grandmother’s meatballs are a very fond memory and I make them to this day. Everybody has his or her own take on this dish. Many different countries have a variation of the meatball. No matter what recipe you use, the trick is in cooking them.

Basic Meatball Recipe

Meatballs are normally made with ground beef or a combination of ground beef and pork. For a basic meatball recipe, I use a pound of ground beef and a pound of ground pork. Then I mix in ½ to ¾ cups of finely minced onion, about one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, two tablespoons of catsup, some dried parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. You’ll notice that I’m not precise about the measurements. A lot of the measurements for seasonings are personal preference and come with trial by fire! I know how much of each I like in my meatballs and every cook should be their own judge.

Use about two or three slices of white bread to make breadcrumbs and then soak them in milk. Add this plus one egg to the meat mixture and mix together. If the mixture is too soft, add more breadcrumbs. If the mixture is too soft, the meatballs will fall apart when you cook them.

No it is time to form the meatballs. Just scoop up a ball of meat with a spoon and form it into the shape of a ball with your hands.

Cooking Meatballs

How to Make Meatballs

How to Make Meatballs

There are three schools of thought when it comes to cooking meatballs: frying, baking, or deep frying. I like frying best, even though there is the aesthetic drawback that they can tend to get flat on one side if you don’t turn them enough. When you bake them you don’t get that nice browning that you do from frying. Deep frying adds too much extra fat.

Heat a heavy frying pan with a little vegetable oil to keep the meatballs from sticking. Make sure the pan is nice and hot before you add the meatballs. Put them in the pan quickly and leave enough space in between each one so they can roll around. After a minute, roll them over a little bit with a spatula. The more often you are able to roll them, the rounder they will stay.

Once they are done, add them to your sauce or poor the sauce onto the meatballs. Be sure to cook them a little longer in the sauce to insure that the meatballs are done. Or you can enjoy them plain.

Variations on a Theme!

Once you know the basics of meatball making, there are a lot of different nuances to make them a little different.

1. My grandmother was from Poland and her meatball recipe is what I base mine on. But sometimes she made her “klopsiki” with a sour cream and mushroom sauce. After the meatballs were fried, she put the meatballs in a casserole dish and added a little water or beef stock and baked them for about 30 minutes. Then she mixed together ¾ cup of sour cream, 1-1/2 cups of boiling water, and some flour. This was cooked until thick and poured over the meatballs with some mushrooms. Yumm!

2. Swedish meatballs follow the same basic recipe (no Worcestershire sauce and catsup), and then are seasoned with white pepper, allspice, salt, and a little sugar. It is the sugar that makes Swedish meatballs distinct. Traditionally they are not boiled in a sauce. The gravy is on the side.

3. Another change up that I do with meatballs is to use ground turkey instead of beef to make them a little healthier. I use the same recipe, accept I cut back on the milk. Ground turkey is pretty soft and too much milk can make it difficult to form balls and have them stay that way through the frying.

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