The first food I ever decided I wanted to make my own, decided I needed to give my own interpretation, decided I didn’t like everything the sworn by recipes held, was meatballs.
While most Americans associate meatballs with Italian food, they’re pretty much as American as apple pie. But with a bold quarter of my heritage composed of Italian Americans, meatballs are not only a staple, they are part of who we are. As a little girl, I’d linger in my grandmother’s kitchen with intrigue, watch her roll one meatball at a time, then fry them in the skillet, and beg her to let me break the noodles* into the boiling water.
*A practice I now know is frowned upon in more professional kitchens, but for me was one of the best times spent with my Gram.
You’d think meatballs would be a pretty simplistic food, one that can’t be loused up, but I’ve eaten some pretty terrible things under the label of ‘meatballs’, usually at potlucks or showers, and had to practice restraint in picking up that dried out, over seasoned, under seasoned, crunchy with raw onion, poor excuse for a meatball and chucking it towards its creator.
I’m sorry. I get a little passionate about meatballs.
My meatballs are not complex, not traditional in way of combing multiple meat types, and have yet to be chucked at my head when offered at a social gathering.
Preheat the oven to 400° and line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment.
Gather all the dry ingredients (bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder) and mix together.
The milk was a little camera shy, so it’s the only ingredient who missed out on the photo shoot.
Beat the eggs, then add the ground beef, eggs, and milk to the dry mixture.
You can start mixing with a fork if you’re like me and want to fool yourself into thinking your hands won’t get dirty.
But, eventually, you’re just going to have to get in there with your hands.
I like my meatball mixture well blended, no chunks of anything hanging around.
Usually, I make my meatballs tablespoons size, so they’re a one-bite kind of meatball, but today I went for two-bites.
Place the meatballs on prepared baking pan.* If you lay them out just right, there should be enough room to squeeze them all on.
*If you don’t have parchment, you can use cooking spray. I prefer parchment because it’s easier clean up.
Bake for twenty-five minutes.
I started baking my meatballs after years of skillet frying. I didn’t notice a major taste difference and figured I ought to stick with the healthier method. It also happens to be the cleaner method.
Anybody else hate that greasy feel your entire body has after frying anything in a skillet?
This step is crucial! Allow the meatballs to simmer in sauce for at least thirty minutes. If you’re using a homemade sauce, you know how important it is for your meatballs to soak in the flavors you’ve just created.
And if you’re using a jar sauce, I don’t know you.
Just kidding. If you go into my pantry right now you’ll find a couple jars of sauce ready for my in-a-pinch dinners.
And speaking of sauce, that is a recipe which after ten years, I’m still perfecting.
Makes 50 meatballs
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 T minced parsley
1 T salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 lbs ground beef
1 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten
- Preheat oven to 400°. Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment.
- In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
- Add ground beef, milk, and eggs.
- Mix with a fork or clean hands until well combined.
- Roll into balls sized according to preference. (If rolling smaller than a tablespoon, time may need adjustment).
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Add to sauce and let simmer for thirty minutes or longer.