There must be as many Italian meatball recipes as there are Italians. So by no means am I going to say my meatballs are “the best” – especially since I don’t have any Italian in my blood. However, I do think that I’ve got a great tasting version that is pretty simple to make. Feel free to add your own ingredients and techniques, but this recipe should give you a great place to start. FYI – for the parents out there, I sneak vegetables into my meatballs, and my kids don’t even notice.
Ingredients for Italian Meatballs
- Ground pork ~1 lbs
- Ground beef ~1 lbs
- Yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 – 3 cups baby spinach
- 1 carrot
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 3 eggs
- Salt and Pepper
Recipe Overview & Keys to Success
Tough to really pin down the keys to this recipe, as peoples tastes vary so widely. Some like their meatballs more tender than others, some like to have the outside sautéed to crispy texture, some skip that step. I’m going to lay out the most critical points for what I like, but go ahead and play with techniques a bit.
- When making the meatballs, don’t pack the meat too tightly. Certainly you need to press the meat to form a ball, but try note to over mix them.
- Sauté the vegetables well, so they blend together and “disappear” in the meatball – as opposed to having distinct chunks of onion that stand out due to a different texture.
- Don’t use just beef – I am strong believer in at least beef + pork
- Don’t overcook the meatballs. I sauté them a few minutes in a pan, then poach them for about 15 minutes. Any longer and you could end up with hockey pucks.
- Make a “tester” meatball. Before you roll out all your meatballs, take a bit of the mix, and cook it off (like a mini-hamburger patty) and taste it. That way you can see if your seasoning and texture is right, before making the whole batch.
Sauté the Vegetables
- Dice the onion into small pieces and shred the carrot using the small hole side of your cheese grater
- Sauté the onion and carrot in olive oil until both are soft and the onion is translucent. Add the chopped garlic cloves and cook for another few minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add in the baby spinach and toss with the onions and carrot until cooked all they way down (the leave will greatly reduce in volume)
- Take the vegetables off the heat and let cool until close to room temperature
Making the Meatball Mix
- Put the pork and beef into a large mixing bowl (I like to take the meat out of the fridge about an hour before I’m ready to mix it – otherwise it’s very cold on my hands when mixing).
- To the meat add the sautéed vegetables, the eggs, bread crumbs, cheese,
- Add a good amount of salt and pepper
- Mix everything together (I like to use my hands) until everything is consistently mixed
- Pull about a tablespoon of meat off and make a small patty, cook it, and taste it to see if the seasoning is right. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Note if you find it bland – chance are you just need salt and pepper.
Forming the meatballs
- I like meatballs about golfball size, but you can make them smaller or bigger. Note, the bigger they are, the longer they will take to cook, and vice versa – don’t over or undercook yours.
- To portion the meatballs, I like to use a spoon to roughly portion out the amount of meat I want. I’ll do this for a couple dozen meatballs, and then (assembly line style) go back to each portion to shape them into uniform balls
Sautéing the Meatballs
- I like to cook my meatballs in two stages. First is a quick sauté on the stove top in just a bit of olive oil. This cooking, gives the outside a nicely seared crust and adds that caramelized flavor.
- In a non-stick pan, I sauté about 10 meatballs at a time until each side is golden brown. Be careful as you move them around, as they are pretty tender. It’s important to get two sides nicely browned, but frankly if it’s not perfectly even all around the meatball, don’t worry about it.
- As they cook, set them aside until they are all sautéed.
Poaching the Meatballs
- Once all the meatballs are sautéed, I gently place them (preferably in a single layer) in a simmering pot of tomato sauce. This second cooking process, will cook the meatball all the way through. In addition to finishing the cooking process, the sauce add some flavor to the meatballs, and conversely the meatball adds some flavor to the sauce.
- Cook the meatballs for about 15 minutes. If you need to test doneness just cut one in half
- While they are cooking don’t stir the sauce, or you risk breaking up the meatballs. Just let them sit and cook.
- Once cooked, you’re ready to serve. If you need to cook your sauce for longer, remove the meatballs, so they don’t overcook, and re-heat them in the sauce when you’re ready to serve.
I hope this version of Italian meatballs treats you well; we love it at my house and probably make them once a month at least. Enjoy!!