Now that’s a Meatball!Posted: January 8, 2011
I’m always on the lookout for a great meatball, I call it research. Ground beef formed into a ball (the larger the better!) surrounded in marinara sauce and paired with another one of my favorite foods, pasta. I have tried meatballs at dozens of Italian restaurants and unfortunately it’s rare to find a superb meatball. Sal & Anthony’s in Exeter, New Hampshire made the best meatball I have ever eaten at a restaurant. Then they went out of business…
In high school, I dated a girl who’s mother made some pretty fabulous meatballs. If I caught wind the family was having pasta and meatballs for dinner I would do anything I could to get an invite! Her meatballs were different, instead of traditional breadcrumbs she added corn flakes. This was culinary genius, it made the meatballs lighter and less dense. then… the girlfriend and I broke up. A few times I thought about calling the ex’s mom to ask her for the meatball recipe, but I that would have been awkward.
These events were the beginning years of research into the best meatball recipe.
The research continued. I read cookbooks, yes for fun. Many meatball recipes call for two or three different meats. Some call for beef and pork, others call for beef, pork and veal. For “research purposes” my wife and I took part in true science. We conducted a blind taste test that included 9 participants to discover the truth behind the perfect meat combination. We made two meatballs both recipes were identical, except in one we used beef and pork. In the other we used just beef – The winner… Just the beef! I like to use a ground chuck, an 80/20 blend. It’s less expensive than pork and veal and tastes better alone.
What about eggs? All meatball recipes call for eggs, but how many eggs should you add to your meatballs, one, two or more? Through yes, more research I have concluded that it is all about the egg! We are not creating rubbery tough balls of meat that bounce on the floor when dropped. We want delicious, rich, melt in your mouth meatballs. I use four eggs for every one pound of beef. Yes, two pounds of ground beef equals 8 eggs. That is one of the secrets to top notch meatballs, it really helps them to fluff up and melt in your mouth.
So here you have it, after more than 15 years of research and testing I have perfected the meatball. This is the best meatball I have ever tasted. I have also included a heavenly marinara sauce recipe to go along with the meatballs. A good meatball is nothing without good sauce. I would love to hear your comments and feedback once you make them for yourself. If you have a great meatball recipe, I would love to try it!
This is a really fun meal to prepare and share with a large group. As you can see this recipe will feed a small army making 8 – 10 portions. If you don’t have a small army to feed, feel free to freeze half for a later date. It will last a month or two in a freezer if stored in freezer safe zip lock storage bags.
Makes 16 Large Meatballs – Tennis ball size
The Meatball –
2 lbs Hamburg – Chuck 80/20
½ Cup Pecerino Romano Cheese – Plus more for serving
3 Cloves of Garlic – chopped very fine (in a food processor if you have one)
½ of a Large Yellow Onion – chopped very fine (in a food processor if you have one)
½ Teaspoon of Nutmeg (Fresh is best!)
¾ Cup of Crushed Corn Flakes
½ Cup of Italian Bread Crumbs
8 Large Eggs
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine the Pecerino Ramano, the garlic, yellow onion, corn flakes, Italian breadcrumbs and nutmeg. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and then combine with the the other mixture of ingredients. Mix well and then add the hamburg and mix with your hands until all of the ingredients are fully combined. Let the mixture sit for five minutes and then mix one last time before forming meatballs. This will allow time for the egg to be fully absorbed. I like very large meatballs, about the size of tennis balls. If you make smaller meatballs you will need to adjust the cooking time. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray. Form the meatballs and place them on the sheet pan. place in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until they are firm and not soft. Let the meatballs sit for five minutes and then add them to the marinara sauce making sure to scrape all of the juices into the pot.
The Marinara Sauce –
2 28oz Cans of Tomatoes (San Marzano Tomatoes are best)
2 15oz cans of Tomato Sauce (I like Hunts sauce)
2 6oz Cans of Tomato Paste (Again I like Hunts)
2 Large Yellow Onions – chopped very fine (in a food processor if you have one)
6 Cloves of Garlic – chopped very fine (in a food processor if you have one)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons of Dried Oregano
Salt & Pepper
Add olive oil to a large thick bottomed pan and heat over medium. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Do not let the garlic darken or turn brown. Add the oregano to the pan and a pinch of salt & pepper, stir. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Simmer on low heat for 25 – 30 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt & pepper. I like this sauce very smooth and blend it with an immersible blender. If you don’t have one or would prefer the sauce more chunky, use a potato masher to crush the tomatoes. Make sure to blend or crush the tomatoes before adding the meatballs. After you add your meatball continue to simmer for about an hour before serving. I prefer to serve this dish with Rigatoni. I find it stands up well to the large meatballs and sauce. Spaghetti would be great too. So good!