Annalena is somewhat famous, or notorious, or well loved, or well liked, or all of the above, for her meatballs. Ah, and this is one of those things that, frankly Annalena both understands and does not. Yes, they are tasty. In fact, if I do say so myself (and I do), they are very tasty. But they are far from the best thing that I make. Yet, if you ask any of my friends who are not vegetarians for a list of their favorite things that I cook, you will find meatballs on that list, almost inevitably. So, as with red sauce, there is never a time that there aren't meatballs in the fridge.
And , as all obsessives are, I am obsessed with making the recipe for my meatballs better. Especially since, in my opinion, they are not in the top 10, and perhaps not even the top 20 things I make. So there is always a portion of my brain engaged in "meatball mania."
Some time ago, I wrote about how I had resurrected meatloaf, and made it for the first time in years. That meatloaf was GOOD. And I remember making some pretty awful meatloaves.
In many respects, meatloaf resembles meatballs. The spicing is different, but it is, at heart, ground meat, egg, some starchy binding ingredient, and spices. So when the meatloaf turned out so much better than I thought it would, and with the thoughts I have of my meatballs in my head, I began to think: "could this be adapted to meaballs?" The answer, after two forays into this, is yes.
You DO have to make some changes. For example, the spicing is very different in meatballs, as compared to meatloaf. And you dispense with the ketchup glaze, because you'll be cooking them in tomato sauce. The spicing change is the biggest one: all you will use is some Italian seasoning. And rather than the dry breadcrumbs I used to use with the meatballs, I now wet them, as I did with meatloaf. Here it comes.
Start with equal quantities of ground beef, pork and veal. (Let's not go over the veal issues again, shall we?). I make six pound batches of meatballs, and get about 65 out of it. You can cut this in half if you like, but you really shouldn't be thinking about less than 3 pounds at a time. Combine those meats, and get in there with your hands. They each have a different color and you need to combine them until they look uniform. Now, when doing this, be gentle. One of the key parts of meatball making is trying to keep things as loose as possible. After you've combined the meats, add one large egg for each three pounds of meat.
Let's go back for a minute. Let's get the breadcrumbs set up. For each 3 pound batch, use a third cup of dry , unflavored crumbs, and a good generous third of a cup of milk. Mix that in a bowl, and let it sit. The bread will absorb the milk. If it absorbs it all and looks dry, add some more. You want something that looks like thick oatmeal.
Now, add those soggy crumbs to the meat and egg mixture. Mix it all together. It's going to feel slightly wet. Add your dry spices as well as salt. I like to use over a tablespoon of each. You don't have to, but in order to tell if you've added enough of either, you do have to taste. If you have a "thing" about tasting raw meat, get over it. You eat sushi, don't you? And you don't need to taste a big piece of it. Just a small bit. Maybe half a teaspoon until you get the seasoning right.
Now, GENTLY roll these guys into balls. Mine are about the size of ping pong balls. If you are heavy handed, as I am, be as delicate as you can. If , on the other hand, you're one of those hateful people who can roll out a piecrust with three easy little flicks of the rolling pin without breaking a sweat, go make pie and leave the meatball makers alone. No, seriously, you folks who are heavy handed know who you are. What you're trying to do is avoid compacting the meat, because you're going to put these into sauce, and you want the sauce to penetrate. After you've rolled them, drop the meatballs into a big pot of simmering tomato sauce. I usually can do about 20 -24 of them at a time in my six quart Le Creuset, with two quarts of sauce in it. Keep the heat low and let them cook for about 15 minutes. Then, get a slotted spoon and pull em out. Let the tomato sauce drip off. Try to remember how many of them you put in, and get them all out. You WILL lose some meat to the sauce, which is not a bad thing, just as you are losing some sauce to the meatballs. Continue in this way until you've cooked all of the meat.
Store these fellas in plastic containers, covered with a big ladle of the red sauce. They freeze very well, and, unlike hamsters, which do not freeze well, they make wonderful little gift packages to your culinarily impaired friends, or anyone you're trying to seduce with your amazing abilities in the ... kitchen.
I'm serious about t his. You will get more "LOVE" from a potful of tasty meatballs, then just about anything else you make. I have a really good friend who loves my meatballs, and loves my ice creams. I would NEVER make him choose one over the other, but if I DID, I am CERTAIN he would pick the meatballs.
You know who you are, boy wonder... am I right?