How To: Make Meatballs


Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar zic says:

    Nice. I love seeing iterations of classic recipes; of how a cook makes it their own.

    I would use fresh garlic. And I would brown them in the oven.

    I also sometimes add a splash of milk, but I don’t recall where I got this from. Pork is compatible with milk flavors, however, so it’s a good trick if the meat mixture is dry and you don’t want to increase the oil content. (This may mean you need to at least rub the pan your doing the browning in with a light coat of oil; less oil will cook out of the meatballs).

    I also use ground pork (no mix,) because I get pork from local farmers, and always have a year’s supply in the freezer. Time, now, to place a new order. And and there’s just one pound of last year’s left in the freezer.

    And an fyi: awesome breakfast sausage can be had by combining the ground meat with salt, pepper, sage, dried ginger, and a dash of maple syrup. Skip the breadcrumbs and eggs. High fat content meat is essential. If you don’t want to stuff casings, make patties. I do, and freeze them for individual use.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      When I wrote my meatloaf post, it discussed using milk to add moisture. A number of folks told me I was crazy. But if zic does it? It can’t be crazy.Report

  2. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    Looks yummy… our family is Greek so our meatball recipe is Cumin based. We’re not mainland Greeks; we hail from Asia Minor – from the old empire – until the Turks kicked us out in 1922 (thanks a lot Obama) – so not what most folks expect from Greek cuisine.

    Greek Meatballs – Smyrna Style

    Serve over rice with a little yogurt (traditional) or sour cream… for a change of pace.Report

  3. Avatar just me says:

    Delish! Spaghetti is always fun with some meatballs in it.

    I use ground chicken and spinach in my meatballs. I usually make them when I am making Italian wedding soup. That is the only time I don’t brown them first. I prefer in the soup to make them teeny tiny and drop them in raw. Like Zic, when I make meatballs for spaghetti I bake them. I also add finely chopped onion to the meat balls. They add moisture, making it unnecessary to add the additional fat when cooking with lean meats.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      I’d love to add chopped onions, and probably would if it weren’t for family members who tend to vehemently oppose their use. This is the problem with families.Report

      • Avatar Just Me says:

        I too have family members who object to onions. Luckily for me they are extended family members though. I have never used ground turkey in my meatballs. I am gonna give that a try. Do you ever just use the Italian flavored bread crumbs? Those work pretty good as a flavor agent also.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        Have you ever tried grating the onions? If the objection is to the onion “crunch,” grating them will give you some good flavor without the texture issues. Works great for hamburgers and meatloaf too.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        I’ve never used the Italian bread crumbs only because I use whatever’s in the house, and when I make meatloaves, I make them with plain/regular. What kind of flavoring is in those bread crumbs that makes them “Italian”?Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        The objection to the onions centers around flavors, apparently, although I’ve never been able to make heads or tails of my family’s objection. Onion rings? “DELICIOUS, MOAR PLEASE!” Onions that aren’t cooked to oblivion? “OH MY GOD, THE HUMANITY!”Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @sam-wilkinson you might try caramelizing the onions (dice, put in a pan with small amount of olive oil on low heat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden.) This could also be the ‘extra oil’ for lean meats.

        It would add onion flavor, sweetness, and moisture without the odd slimy onion pieces many allium haters seem to object too.

        Note: there are two kinds of allium haters. (Allium is the name of the onion family, and includes garlic, shallots, leeks, ramp, scallions, chives, etc.) One is texture haters; they typically love onion rings. The other is gastro-distress haters, they typically like the flavor of onions, but not the things onions do to their innards. I always try to identify the second, and cook according to their health and comfort. The first, I try to fool any which way I can.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        I caramelize my onions differently. In a pan, constantly stirring, until starting to brown, THEN I add liquid. Hmm. I’ll consider your method.

        However, the “grate the onions” suggestion intrigues me. There might be a technique I can use to sneak the onions past my family.Report

      • Avatar Just Me says:

        The Italian bread crumbs I use have dried parsley, onion powder, garlic, and “spices”. They don’t say what the spices include, but I like them. I myself LOVE onions. My mother has a picture of me at around 2 years old with tears streaming down my cheeks chomping on a big ‘ol onion that I pulled from the garden. I guess I pulled it, peeled it and ate it like a banana. At least I knew enough to peel it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Ruhlman’s “Twenty” has a whole chapter on onions and how vastly underutilized they are by most chefs.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy says:

    The meatballs should be browned regardless. It adds texture to the meatball and flavor. When my mom made meatballs (using a very similar recipe), she would fry them until they cooked through. This gave us the opportunity to eat some of the meatballs dry, sans sauce. I know that may seem nutso, especially to a sauce lover like yourself… but a well seasoned meatball that is browned crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside… delicious. Of course, they are also delicious in the sauce. As a child, I would always insist I preferred it one way until I had the other, immediately switching which I thought was superior. In reality, they both are best.Report