Spaghetti and meatballs has always seemed like a restaurant-quality meal to me. (Probably because I can’t recall my mother ever making meatballs, so it’s something I liked to order at restaurants when given the chance.) I always thought it must be a hard thing, making meatballs. I avoided it for years after I had a family, assuming it would be challenging. Which meant I didn’t eat spaghetti and meatballs, because have you tried the store-bought ones? Not good.
Well, I’m happy to admit that I was wrong about how difficult homemade meatballs were. I now frequently enjoy spaghetti and meatballs with my family, and am happy to report that my older daughter loves this meal. I’m going to tell you all about my favorite tricks and methods for making meatballs a snap.
First, a confession: I hate handling raw meat. Actually, hate isn’t a strong enough word. So my first trick with this recipe is to measure all the non-meat ingredients into an enormous bowl, then put on a pair of disposable latex food service gloves (sold in the grocery store with the cleaning supplies) when it’s time to add the meat. I already have all the ingredients in the bowl, my lined pan ready to go – so I try to do all the mixing, shaping, and such in one go while I have the gloves on, because then all the mess stays off of me.
I also like to use a small spring-action ice cream scoop (the same one I use to portion mini muffins!) to ensure that all my meatballs will be roughly the same size. This also helps me not to overwork the dough, as I simply scoop, pop it out, roll gently, and place on the tray.
Last tip: I don’t make these meatballs that often…but when I do, I make a huge batch. (This past time, I bought over five pounds of meat to make into meatballs!) I typically do a double batch at a time – any more is just too much to work with at once – and place them on lined trays and freeze until solid. Then I package them up into quart bags of 16 apiece and freeze until needed. The meatballs last for several months, and I got all the work – and the handling of the raw meat – done with in one fell swoop. Not bad for an hour’s work, when you have 12 dozen meatballs to show for it!
What you need:
For the meatballs:
- 1 lb. uncooked ground beef
- 1 c. dried breadcrumbs (store-bought)
- 1/2 c. milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T. minced shallot, optional
- 1/2 T. dried parsley
- 1/4 c. grated Parmesan
- 3/4 t. kosher salt
- 1/2 t. dried oregano
- 1/2 t. thyme
- 1/2 t. sweet paprika
- 1/8 t. cayenne
- 1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. spaghetti, cooked and drained
- 4-6 c. marinara sauce
- large bowl
- measuring cups and spoons
- sheet pan and liner
Time: 20 minutes prep, 15-25 minutes baking time (longer if frozen).
Serves: Makes 24-28 meatballs.
Multiplying the recipe: This recipe is easily multiplied. Doubling works well, but don’t triple it – that makes it too hard to avoid over-working the meat.
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl, putting the meat in last. Carefully combine all the ingredients, being cautious not to over-work the meat (this leads to tough meatballs). Form the mixture into ping pong ball-sized balls and roll between your palms to smooth them out. Place on a lined baking sheet. If using immediately, place in a 350F oven for 15-20 minutes.
If freezing, place unbaked meatballs on lined baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours, until firm. Transfer meatballs to a storage container (I prefer quart freezer bags, which hold about 16 meatballs, perfect for my family). Label and freeze until ready to use. To bake, place frozen meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes. Optionally (though preferred!), add the meatballs to hot marinara sauce and simmer 10-15 minutes, if using for spaghetti and meatballs or meatball subs.