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Comfort Food: Homemade Meatballs

Homemade meatballs are a favorite in our house. When they are nice and tender in a warm marinara there is nothing better. This recipe doesn’t include a recipe for Spaghetti from scratch.  Either I make a simple sauce by crushing and straining a can of San Marzano tomatoes and saute a bunch of garlic in olive oil and allow the tomatoes to simmer for about 30 minutes in the garlic and add a bunch of fresh basil from my garden when it’s ready to serve. Or sometimes use very good quality store-bought sauce I buy at Whole Foods and doctor it up with lots of fresh basil, some Italian seasoning and hot pepper flakes (which my husband puts on everything.)  Just make your favorite spaghetti. Also, as always… add more fresh herbs and lots of grated parmesan for the table.

Ingredients:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 TBSP, chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 slices good quality white bread, crust removed
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef, 85% lean
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground pork
  • 1/4 lb bulk hot Italian sausage (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh grated
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Spaghetti sauce (homemade or good quality jarred)
  • 3 TBSP fresh basil, chopped

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a large skillet, heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat until just shimmering. Add the chopped onion and cook for a few minutes until they soften.  Make sure your onion is chopped very small so it will mix well with the meat mixture. Add parsley and chopped garlic and cook for a few more minutes until soft and translucent. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool.

Place bread slices in a pan and pour just enough milk over all slices and allow to soak while you prepare the meat mixture. This bread trick adds a nice layer of moisture compared to bread crumbs.

Combine all meats into a large bowl.  Add the egg and Parmigiano.  Season with salt and pepper.

Gently squeeze the excess milk from the bread slices and add to the bowl along with the onion mixture. Carefully and gently combine all the ingredients using your clean hands until they are just mixed together.  If you see bread clumps just use your finger tips to press and knead it into the meat mixture. Be careful you don’t over work or mix the meat. The more you work it, the less tender the meatballs.

Grab a ping-pong to golfball size piece of meat mixture and gently shape them into balls. Do not over work them! You want them just lightly packed but well-shaped.

Take the same large skillet you used for the onion mixture – gently wipe down the inside with a paper towel (make sure it’s cool enough) in order to get any small bits of onion out but leaving the oil. Add about 4 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering but not smoking.

Add several meatballs so you have at least an inch between them.  You want them to brown and not steam.  You also want to make sure you have room to turn them with a flat spatula… so don’t crowd them. Make sure they are nicely browned and be careful to use a metal spatula to quickly turn so they don’t stick. Brown on all sides and place in a baking dish.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Pour your favorite sauce over the meatballs.  Season as you like… I added lots of fresh basil and a little drizzle of olive oil.  An extra sprinkle of David’s seasoning too.  Bake in your oven until the meatballs are cooked through.  Depending on the size you made the meatballs, this could be anywhere from 15 to 35 minutes. I know it’s a big range but just check them after about 15 minutes if they are ping-pong sized. If larger… add more time.

Serve with your favorite Spaghetti and lots of freshly grated Parmesan. Add more fresh chopped basil for flavor and a sprig for garnish.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

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