I learned to make meatballs from my Nonna. Her spaghetti and meatballs was my go to birthday dinner. It still is.
These are not my Nonna’s meatballs. My Nonna use to start making the meatballs after lunch. They would cook in a pot on the stove needing to be delicately stirred every 20 minutes or so, so that the sauce wouldn’t catch and burn. It required a lot of adult attention because little helpers ended up breaking the meatballs up into small bits. Mine get baked in the oven at a low temperature requiring no care once they go in the oven.
My Nonna’s meatballs also had a lot of ingredients. It took at least an hour to get the mince ready so you could brown the meatballs. Further, a lot of the ingredients are known migraine triggers. Mine has seven ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen right now and comes together in ten minutes.
My meatballs taste exactly like my Nonna’s. Sometimes Nonna doesn’t know best.
Meatballs are a great dish for so many reasons:
- They are easily transportable when you need to bring a dish. Who doesn’t love a bite sized meatball on a toothpick?
- Served with a crusty bread they can be the protein foundation of a tapas. Actually, this is the way my adult children prefer them now.
- Toss them with some pasta to feed a horde of hungry teens on a cold day.
- Leftovers make a fantastic topping for pizza or their own sandwiches.
A big pot of meatballs goes a very long way. But you don’t need to take all day making that pot like my Nonna did. Homemade meatballs free from preservatives and added glutamates can be in the oven in 30 minutes. The trick is to use some highly seasoned Italian sausage to flavour the meatballs and sauce, freeing you up to enjoy my friends.
Meatballs make a great foundation dish for tapas or the perfect dish when you need to bring something to share.
Required skills: egg breaking with no shells in the bowl; chopping without losing a finger.
I like to make a double batch so that there’s plenty of leftovers for meatball subs a few days later. Cooked meatballs can be frozen in their sauce for a quick meal.
- 500 gm (1 lb) 50/50 mix of veal and pork mince free from preservatives
- 250 gm (½ lb) homemade Italian sausage free from preservatives, removed from their casings
- ¼ brown onion finely chopped
- 1 handful flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs slightly beaten
- ½ cup divided homemade bread crumbs free from preservative and added glutamates (not sourdough)
- Splash of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 700 gm bottle of your favourite passata, free from preservatives and added glutamates
- Good pinch of sugar
- Salt and pepper seasoning to taste
- A large bowl
- A large frying pan
- Ovenproof baking dish with tight fitting lid
- Preheat oven to 170C (300F). Place baking dish in the oven to warm while you make the meatballs.
- In a large bowl combine the veal and pork mince and sausage with you hands.
- Add the onion, parsley, and parmesan cheese and combine by hand. You should not be able to discern any individual pieces of mince.
- Add the eggs and continue to combine with your hands. Work the meat well until it comes together like a soft dough. You shouldn’t feel any egg on your hands anymore and the meat mixture will be sticky.
- Start working the bread crumbs into the mixture with ¼ cup. Work well before you gradually add more as needed so that the mixture comes cleanly off your hands.
- Warm your frying pan over medium heat with a good splash of EVOO.
- Roll the meatballs and place into the pan. Increase the heat on the pan to medium high.
- Brown the meatballs on all sides.
- Transfer to the heated baking dish in the oven.
- Turn the heat on the frying pan down to medium. Add the passata and rinse the bottle with a bit of water to thin the passata. Deglaze the frying pan, being sure to scrape of any browned meat to flavour the sauce.
- Have a quick taste of the sauce and add a good pinch of sugar or two to cut the acidity. The sauce may be bland at this point. Don’t worry as it is going to pick up the spices from the meatballs while in the oven.
- Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Give them a gentle stir so that they are coated in the sauce. Bake covered for 1 hour.
- After an hour check the sauce for flavour and adjust with salt and pepper as necessary. You may also want to use a spoon to scoop off any excess fats that have migrated to the surface.
So my friends, when did your Nonna not know best?