Halfway Decent meatballs
My sister has always been one of the most difficult people to please when it comes to food. She is very particular in her tastes and in the way things are cooked and in which ingredients are used. She won’t eat my turkey at Thanksgiving because it’s too moist. So, any time she actually likes something I cooked I do an internal happy dance (mostly because I’m neurotic and can’t stand it when people don’t like my cooking). And earlier this week when she tasted my meatballs and said, “Not to boost your ego, but these might be the best I’ve ever had,” my ego was definitely boosted.
I’ve been playing with and perfecting meatballs for well over a decade and the recipe varies a little bit every time i make them depending on what I have on hand, my mood and how heavy handed I feel like being with the spices and the cheese. I’ve been making them primarily with ground turkey for the last few years because it’s cheaper and healthier, but buffalo meat is amazing and so is ground beef or Italian sausage or a blend of the two. Sometimes I’ll throw some ricotta in there, which is delicious, but I do that less often now because a lot of dairy hurts our stomachs a little bit more than it used to when we were younger.
An important tip for this recipe is to hoard frozen bits of bread in your freezer. Every time there is a lonely end piece in a loaf of bread, or bread that I’m kinda sick of that’s going stale, or a few extra hot dog buns (because the hot dog to bun ratio is NEVER right) I just throw them in the door of my freezer. It helps reduce food waste and I use them for meatballs, meatloaf and stuffing. I’ve been doing this forever, so I’m not sure how using fresh bread would affect the way the meatballs come out. Having the bread frozen makes your fingertips hurt for a hot minute while you’re tearing them to bits and rolling the balls, but it makes the bread crumble nicely.
At any rate, here is this weeks meatball iteration. (As always, measurements are more like guidelines than actual rules and I measured nothing so these are my best guesstimates)
1 lb. ground turkey
7ish frozen bread slices
1/2 c. almond milk (but you can use any kind of milk)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan (the actual best cheese for this is imported Parmigiano Reggiano if you want to splurge on cheese, in which case increase to at least one cup or as much as the meatballs will hold without getting too crumbly)
Salt and Pepper to taste (I usually just do a light dusting of both across the top of the mix)
2 tsp. dry basil (fresh chopped basil is also super good and again, I basically just do a light dusting across the top)
4 tsp. granulated garlic (I LOVE garlic so I’m always super heavy handed with it, but you can’t put as much or as little as you want. Hmmmm I haven’t tried it, but i bet fresh toasted garlic would be even better)
A few splashes of hickory liquid smoke and mesquite liquid smoke (I prefer to use both, but one or the other also works because they don’t always have both at the store for some reason. Don’t put too much of this though because a little goes a long way).
Olive oil for brushing (regular olive oil is fine…I guess…but I’ve been an olive oil snob ever since my friend Susan worked at a little artisan olive oil and vinegar shop, so now I only use Tuscan Herb infused olive oil for my meatballs because nothing else compares to it and it adds so much flavor. Most towns have a similar shop where this can be found.)
Crumble frozen bread slices into a medium or large mixing bowl.
Pour milk over breadcrumbs and toss with a wooden spoon until milk is absorbed.
Add meat, egg, cheese, spices, and liquid smoke to the bowl and mix well. Sometimes you have to get a little stabey with the wooden spoon to break up some of the bread chunks.
Roll into one-inch balls.
So there are two ways to cook these, either you can pan fry them or bake them in the oven.
To bake them in the oven: preheat to 350 degrees, brush your schmancy olive oil all over a 9x13 baking dish and place the balls in rows in the dish. Then use a basting brush to coat each ball with a little olive oil. Bake for 30-45 minutes until golden brown and done in the middle.
To pan fry: Drizzle your schmancy olive oil across the bottom of a skillet on medium heat, place the balls in the skillet and roll them around until they’re golden brown on all sides and done in the middle.
Pair with your favorite pasta and sauce or just eat them plain, you do you (these are super good with a nice creamy vodka sauce and regular spaghetti).
Stuff your face.
*Also, these freeze beautifully so you can make a mess ton and throw them in your freezer for whenevs*