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Moist and Tender Meatballs

Meatballs are one of the most satisfying meals around. If done right they are tender, flavorful and satisfying. Doing it right also means that they aren’t fast food, but you can make a big batch all at once and have several meals out of one session in the kitchen.

The recipe that follows comes from my Italian American grandmother and will yield at least 2 meals for a hungry family. Grandma taught me that the keys to delicious meatballs include creating a base of milk-soaked bread for moisture, using different kinds of meat for depth of flavor and letting the meat rest before combining so that the meatballs hold together.

The meatballs freeze and re-heat beautifully, so I recommend preparing them for your next Sunday night supper and then freezing the leftovers for a rainy, hungry day.

Grandma’s Meatballs

Served in a meatball sub with grated parm.

Served in a meatball sub with grated parm.

2 slices white bread
1/3 c milk
1 ½ lbs lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 ½ lbs lean ground pork
½ onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 t garlic powder
½ t black pepper, freshly ground
½ t salt
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried basil
2 t fresh parsley
Pinch of hot pepper (optional)
½ c parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten

Remove crusts from the bread and discard. Chop bread in food processor to create small crumbs. Place bread in large bowl and cover with milk. Let bread sit in milk for 5 minutes and then mash with fork to form a smooth paste.

Add ground meats to the bowl containing the bread and milk. Process onion and garlic in food process until finely minced (can also be done with fine knife skills). Add to the bowl with the meat. Add seasonings including garlic powder, black pepper, salt, oregano, basil, fresh parsley and hot pepper. Gently mix together with fork or spoon to distribute seasonings and bread paste – do not mix with your hands as the warmth will toughen the meat.

Add the grated parmesan cheese to the mixture. A quick note here that I strongly advise that you use real parmesan cheese and not that stuff that comes pre-grated in the green cardboard cylinder. That is not cheese!

Add the eggs and gently mix meat mixture together. Cover bowl with wrap or foil and refrigerate meat mixture at least one hour – two is even better.

About 1 hour before you wish to eat the meatballs, warm up your favorite tomato sauce in a large pot. (Hopefully you already have a family favorite recipe for red sauce but if not then try out Alton Brown’s recipe.)

Preheat oven broiler to low. Next, line a baking sheet with foil and cover with nonstick spray. Portion meat mixture into about 16 meatballs and place on foil lined baking sheet. A medium sized disher or ice cream scoop is ideal for maintaining consistently sized meatballs.

Broil the meatballs on low for 5-7 minutes or until deeply browned, but not burnt. Check meatballs often as broiler intensity and cooking times vary. Remove from oven, turn over meatballs and return to broiler for another 5-7 minutes. Once browned on both sides, remove meatballs from oven and place in barely simmering tomato sauce. Allow meatballs to complete cooking in sauce for 10 more minutes. Remove meatballs and sauce from heat and allow meatballs to rest in sauce another 10 minutes before serving.


    1. Jessica says:

      Any suggestions if you have a crappy broiler? I’ve fried, which works well but you get a lot more oil, and i’ve baked but then they don’t get a good crust. And I haven’t thought of any other methods.

    2. Margot says:

      Jessica, good question. I think that the best lower fat option is to put an empty skillet (with a modest amount of oil) into the oven and crank the heat up to about 450 or so. Once the oven and skillet are pre-heated then add the meatballs and bake at the high heat. Pre-heating the pan can help you get a nice crust on the bottom and if you flip the meatballs halfway thru then maybe that should do the trick. Haven’t tried that yet with meatballs, but Cook’s Illustrated advises that method for many other crispy items.

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