Meatballs are delicious when perfectly made. Otherwise, they’re better relegated to your slingshot than your table. The key to the perfect meatball is minimal handling – don’t touch your meatballs too much and they won’t end up being too dense. And as you likely know, dense, gummy balls will end up as over-cooked chunks of gravel. Probably not what you had in mind.
That said, here’s a great meatball recipe of only moderate complexity. Have your butcher grind the three types of meat, and if he/she complains just find a new butcher. This is simply part of their craft. Or should be.
- ½ pound ground pork butt
- ½ pound ground lamb
- ½ pound ground bottom round (beef)
- ½ cup frozen spinach thawed and drained thoroughly
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 whole egg
- 1 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher or sea)
- ½ cup bread crumbs, ¼ for mixture, ¼ for rolling.
- Herbs and spices to taste (probably about a tablespoon of any or all of the following: basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, pepper, garlic powder (not salt))
Lightly mix everything with the exception of ¼ cup breadcrumbs, emphasis on lightly, try not to squish or squeeze. Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or up to overnight to let the flavors mingle.
Preheat oven to 400’. By hand, form the meatballs into the size of golf balls. (keep it gentle!) Roll the balls in the bread crumbs, and don’t worry if they aren’t perfectly coated.
Bake for 15-20 minutes in a mini muffin pan. If the balls will be cooked a second time, say as part of a pasta sauce, err on the lower side of the time range. If eaten as is, go for the higher end. But because ovens vary, be sure to test one before you declare them done.
If your meatballs are to be served as a stand-alone appetizer, they will pair well with any number of red wines or even Rosé or sparkling wine. But if served over pasta with the traditional red sauce, the tomato sauce drives the choice – it’s acidity requires wine of equal measure, such as Chianti, domestic Sangiovese, or other varieties from Northern Italy (Nebiolo, Barbera, etc.)
Recipe courtesy of Paul “Rad” Radcliffe!