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Easy Meatballs Recipe

Updated on November 24, 2011

I'm always on the lookout for quick recipes. But I also want them full of flavor. This one fills the bill nicely. The best thing is that this recipe is adaptable. Want meatball subs? No problem. Spaghetti and Meatballs? You're set. Baked Meatballs in Marinara? Golden!

You can also change the flavor profile easily. Add a touch of fennel. Pop in some oregano. Have fresh herbs laying around, begging for use? There you go!

My favorite way to use them is in one my oldest son's favorite dishes - minestrone. The meatballs turn this soup hearty and rich, and it becomes a great main dish. Crusty bread and a green veggie and dinner is done. Try it in Meatball Minestrone - you'll thank me. But don't stop there - give it a shot in classic Spaghetti and Meatballs, or in a Meatball Sandwich. Mmmmmboy!

Make your breadcrumbs, then add the garlic.
Make your breadcrumbs, then add the garlic.
Add the other veggie and seasonings, plus the egg and process until smushy.
Add the other veggie and seasonings, plus the egg and process until smushy.
Mix the seasonings into the ground beef well, but don't overmix. That will keep them tender. This is mixed and ready to go.
Mix the seasonings into the ground beef well, but don't overmix. That will keep them tender. This is mixed and ready to go.
Use an ice cream scooper to make your meatballs. They're all even that way, so they cook at the same rate. The ones on top have been rolled, so they will hold together.
Use an ice cream scooper to make your meatballs. They're all even that way, so they cook at the same rate. The ones on top have been rolled, so they will hold together.

Big Balls o' Love - Basic Meatballs

Meatballs

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 small tomatoes, or 1 large, seeded and juiced
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil


In the bowl of a food processer, pulse 2-3 pieces of bread until fine. I use whatever happens to need to be used up – hot dog buns, hoagie rolls, the heels of loaf bread – whatever. You can use the store bought stuff – but this is easier and cheaper and tastes better – doesn’t have the stale processed taste that store bought crumbs often has.

Once the texture of the bread crumbs is nice and fine, add the tomatoes, garlic, onion and egg and pulse again until you have a thick goopy paste.

Put the ground beef in the bowl of a mixer, add the bread crumb paste and mix just until combined. Don’t do this in the food processor – it will over mix the meat and the meatballs will be hockey pucks. I’ve made those. They’re not lovely. The trick to working with ground meats is not to over work them. You can certainly do this by hand in a regular mixing bowl as well – I just don’t like how the cold meats can make my hands hurt by the time it’s all mixed well. (I’m delicate. Like a pixie).

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Keep the heat nice and low – you’re going to brown the outside of the meatballs, and if you go too hot they’ll either fall apart or be totally raw inside. At the same time, you aren’t cooking them all the way through at this point – just getting a pretty brown crusty outside, and about halfway cooked through.

Once the oil is hot, form the meatballs into about 1 inch balls. An easy way to do this is with a small ice cream scoop, or a tablespoon. Scoop a bit out into the palm of your hand, roll it a bit so it’s pretty and round, then pop them into the skillet.

You’ll probably have two or three batches to get them all. As they are browned on all sides, drain them off on a paper towel and set them aside. You’ll finish them off in the soup. If you want them on their own, then go ahead and pop them in a 350F oven for another 20 minutes. Make sure you use a broiler pan to allow the fat to drain.

Alternately - you can make larger meatballs and do them in the oven. Use a larger scoop or measure, and as you roll them, put them on a roasting rack set on a banking sheet. Roll them just until they're round - you can toughen them if you compact them too much. Back them at 350F for 30 minutes.

*To make sure of your seasonings, test one meatball before you brown them all. Cook one, taste and decide if you need to reseason now. Go light on the salt though – there will be more in the soup.

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