In case you are wondering, Alex named the meatballs. She has a sense for the literal, my kid. I was leaning toward “Man Sized Meatballs.”
Some of you may be surprised to see this recipe on my blog, as I have made no secret of the fact that traditional Italian American food is not one of my favorites. And I have never particularly loved Italian meatballs. But as every parent alive has discovered, what you love or don’t love is not always shared with your children. And as it turns out, Sammy adores meatballs.
As it also turns out, she is blessed with an uncle who also adores meatballs. And who is pretty darn good at making them as well.
This post came about because Sammy was so excited that her new school had meatballs. So of course she bought lunch the day they served them. Her report? The noodles were good, but the meatballs were no Uncle Chris meatballs! When Uncle Chris heard, he immediately scheduled a day to come make meatballs.
My brother really likes his meatballs large–as you can tell. I would say a good sized adult serving was a half meatball. But you can easily adjust his directions to use a mini muffin tin and make smaller meatballs. He might not give you permission, but I will.
One of the great things about making meatballs is that your kids can help out. Since Sammy is the meatball fiend, she helped the most. This is the first time I have let her use the Microplane to grate cheese.
If your child is not old enough to use a Microplane, she or he can certainly still help mix the meatball add-ins. They can also help knead the actual meatballs, although Sammy declared there was no way she was touching all that raw meat, so Uncle Chris had to go it alone.
One of the keys to these meatballs is to use good, flavorful, fatty meats. The raw meatball is then placed on a muffin well–the meatball should be big enough that it does not sink into the muffin well. This allows excess fat to drip out of the meatball and into the muffin well.
The baked meatballs are then simmered in marinara sauce. We decided we should have used a larger pot, because it took some tricky maneuvering to get all the meatballs submerged!
This recipe obviously make a lot. I am not sure anyone in my family cooks halfway. Maybe we are all deep down terrified of an apocalypse that ends food as we know it? Anyway, my brother reports that these meatballs do freeze well after baking, before simmering in the sauce. There will be a slight decrease in quality. So freeze half if the recipe makes too much.
My brother does make his own marinara, but I chose to focus this post on the meatballs. Just choose or make your own favorite marinara for simmering the meatballs.
- 4 cloves garlic, grated on fine microplane (this is Uncle Chris's secret method
to keep the meatballs from having any sharp bites of garlic)
- ¾ cup (3-4) shallots, minced
- 4 T extra virgin olive oil
- 6 T minced fresh Italian parsley
- 4 oz fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
- 3 T minced fresh basil
- 1 lb ground veal (ground pork can be substituted)
- 1 lb lean (90%) ground beef
- ½ lb sweet Italian sausage
- ½ lb hot Italian sausage (my kids can eat these-the end result is not hot)
- 6 eggs
- 3 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs, divided
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Have ready a 12-well muffin tin.
- Saute the garlic and shallots in the extra virgin olive oil until translucent. Set aside to cool.
- Using a large bowl, mix together the grated Parmesan, minced fresh herbs and sautéed garlic and shallots (do not add the garlic and shallots hot to the cheese or it may melt). Add the ground meats and 1½ cups bread crumbs. Whisk together the 6 eggs and add them to the bowl. Using your hands, gently mix and knead the mixture until it is evenly combined. Do not over knead however, or the meatballs may become tough.
- The mixture will make 9 fist sized meatballs. Take about 1/9 of the mixture and gently form it into a ball. Roll the ball into the remaining bread crumbs and then place gently into a muffin well. It should not sink to the bottom, you do not want it to touch the bottom of the pan. Repeat with the remaining meatball mixture.
- Place a few tablespoons of water into any muffin wells that are not used. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the meatballs are golden brown and the internal temperature of the largest meatball is 160 F.
- Carefully place the meatballs into a simmering pot of marinara sauce. Let simmer for 20 minutes to meld the flavors togethers. Serve with pasta of choice.