I don’t love meatballs. They are usually either too dense or too mushy or too large but most notably, not flavorful. When my son was three years old, I was running out of dinner ideas and wanted to introduce him to red meat. I thought meatballs would be a good introduction and bought them pre-made from the supermarket. My son seemed to enjoy them but the texture and flavor grossed me out.
I consulted a few cookbooks and googled recipes but most importantly, I phoned a very good friend of mine who gave me several useful tips and explained how her Italian mother makes them. I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years and have created a recipe that my whole family loves – even my husband who hates meatballs. I often have to slap his hand away when I pull the pan of meatballs out of the oven – otherwise, he’d eat them all.
There are several things that I love about this meatball recipe. Firstly, there are only five ingredients (not including salt and pepper) and the preparation is quick, making this an easy weeknight meal. Secondly, the meatballs are bite-sized and manageable so you can just pop them in your mouth. Thirdly, the texture is crusty on the outside but the bits of milk-soaked bread make them soft and tender on the inside. Fourthly, the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano caramelizes as the meatballs bake and adds an overall tangy and salty flavor – I add a healthy amount of cheese. And lastly, they are simply delicious, especially just out of the oven. I’ve never served my meatballs as an hors d’oeuvre, but now that I think about it, it’s not a bad idea!
Meatballs. I used to brown the meatballs in a frypan and finish cooking them in the oven. It was a laborious process and created a huge mess. Now, I just bake them in the oven and then place them directly under the broiler for a couple of minutes. I usually eat these meatballs straight out of the oven, but also serve them with a side of pasta or simmer them in a marinara sauce to serve with spaghetti. Enjoy!
Serves 4 people; Prep time – 20 minutes; Cook time – 10 minutes
- 1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
- 2 slices white bread (such as Pepperidge Farm)
- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (or a combination of parmesan and pecorino romano)
- 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
- 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground chuck (or combination of ground beef, pork and/or veal)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the bread in a bowl and add milk. Set aside, allowing the bread to absorb the milk.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss the ingredients together.
- Add the ground beef and gently break the meat apart by hand while combining it with the cheese mixture. Avoid mashing all of the ingredients together. Otherwise you will end up with a dense meatball.
- Squeeze the milk out of the bread with your hands. Tear the bread into small pieces and add to meat mixture. Again, gently toss/combine all of the ingredients together by hand.
- Taking approximately 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture, close your hand and gently form it into a ball. The goal is to create a loose meatball. Do not roll it between your hands or compact the meat.
- I like to place the formed meatballs in a container and store covered in the refrigerator for at least two hours so they set up. If you are in a hurry, this isn’t necessary. Place the meatballs directly on a rimmed baking sheet. (Do not line the sheet pan with foil as they will not caramelize properly and stick to the foil.)
- Place the sheet pan in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the broiler to HIGH and brown directly under the broiler for about 2 minutes. Enjoy immediately and/or serve with pasta.