Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Classic meatballs

Nothing puts a smile on my face quite like the sight of a fully stocked freezer.  (Okay, Penguins victories, anything pumpkin, a certain someone, time with family and friends... so, a few other things.)  But, with one quick glance, I know that I have a few round meals at my fingertips, ready with the addition of heat.  Yep, you guessed it, it's that time of year -- the big freeze!  No snow outside (yet), but the time of year when I start cooking and baking in slightly larger than normal quantities.

I can't tell you how nice it is to not have to scale down a recipe and work from original instructions.  I usually reserve enough for that night's dinner and the next day's lunch.  Since I don't want to eat [large quantity item] for three meals daily for the next week, I pop extras into the freezer.  You'd be amazed how many things you can freeze for later reheating: lasagna, enchiladas, sauces, soup, baked casseroles (mac and cheese, meatloaf), even cookies, baked or unbaked.  Perfect for weeknight meals when, surprise surprise, I'm ravenous after my daily workout.

Let's get to the highlight of this little entry -- the meatballs!

Full disclosure: I was never crazy about the ultra gigantic meatball plopped on top of a bed of pasta at restaurants.  They all seemed to think that a ball of meat the size of a linebacker's fist was the key to any carbohydrate-loving patron's heart.  I know, I know.  I'm an American, and isn't it the American way to love all things super-sized?  I just have bad memories of the thing rolling around on my plate, slopping sauce everywhere it went, and not blending well with the delicate buttery noodles that are the real reason I ordered the dish in the first place.  Hmph!

Plus, the ultimate bummer was when you'd try to cut the meatball into manageable pieces and end up cutting the pasta below it, giving you a plate of one-inch long spaghetti noodles.  The worst!!

So, you can imagine my delight when I sat down to a dinner of beautifully green fettuccine with marinara sauce and petite meatballs in Trattoria Katy!  (Note: I bought this pasta in Ohio and it's the spinach basil garlic flavor.  If you ever spot flavored pasta like this, buy some.  You won't be disappointed!)  The blend of ground meats keeps the meatballs moist and the cheese and bread crumbs give them enough flavor to devour alone, without any sauce or pasta.  I'm not recommending this, just making a point that they are DARN good :)

Real Meatballs
(adapted, slightly, from Ina Garten)
-makes 40-45 one and a half-inch meatballs, so be prepared to freeze some

A few notes: You can use any combination of ground meats that you like.  I've used both the variety and all beef, just depending on what piqued my interest at the store.  Also, regarding size -- I formed smaller meatballs for both convenient cooking and reheating, since I froze the majority of the batch.  To reheat, place in a saucepan with desired amount of marinara sauce over low heat for 5 minutes or so.  If microwaving, place in bowl and sprinkle with water, nuking for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on strength of microwave.  And, smaller meatballs make for perfect meatball sandwiches, ahem :)  Finally, I switched the cooking method to baking.  I've followed Ina's frying stove-top method, but it's a huge mess and takes quite some time.  Baking is the way to go!

1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and coat very lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Place ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and water in a large bowl.  Using clean hands or a fork, combine very lightly.  With the help of a small ice cream scoop or your hands, form 1 1/2-inch balls, placing on lined baking sheets.

Bake for roughly 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and cut one meatball in half to ensure that it's done.  (If you're making large meatballs, I suggest increasing cook time by a few minutes.)  If freezing, allow to cool completely before arranging in one layer in resealable freezer bag.  If eating immediately, serve with sauce and pasta of your choice.

1 comment:

  1. We're on the same wavelength as I made this just yesterday. Another method if you have time: bake meatballs on 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then transfer to a pot of cranberry sauce and tomato soup for 60 minutes, low flame. The flavor of the sauce will bake into the parcooked meatballs. If using ground turkey, lower cooking temp to 300.