Meatballs are the kind of food that seems so easy to make but are actually so easy to screw up. They can range from immense ones the size of a grapefruit to miniature, bite sized versions. Within that range, I’ve encountered ones that have made up an entire meal and ones that served as an afternoon snack. Either way, they are one of my favorite foods and as such deserve some respect. When making meatballs it’s important to pay attention. Anyone can throw together meat, cheese, breadcrumbs, an egg and herbs, mash it up and call it a meatball. They wouldn’t be wrong. But what they would get is a meatball that’s heavy and chewy. A good meatball is airy and light and does not sit in your stomach like a sack of potatoes. The following recipe is a guide for you to achieve the perfect meatball. By frying them first, it locks in a lot of the moisture from the eggs and water and gives the outside a good firmness. Finally, poaching them in the tomato sauce gently finishes the cooking process while flavoring the meatballs with the spices and herbs from the sauce. Plus, the poaching makes these meatballs extremely soft on the inside and perfect for sliders. Finish them with a solid bun, a layer of sauce, some extra cheese and a basil leaf and you’re good to go.
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 18 meatballs
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
18 small, soft rolls, split horizontally
1. Mix all meats, panko crumbs, 1/2 cup water, 6 tablespoons cheese, egg, egg yolk, 1/4 cup parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
2. Compact and roll into 18 2-inch meatballs.
3. Heat vegetable oil in a large pan/skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Place meatballs (5 or 6 at a time) on the skillet and fry in the oil until meatballs are brown all over.
5. Transfer meatballs to plate. Pour excess oil from skillet (into sink, wherever).
6. Reduce heat to medium and add olive oil to skillet.
7. Add onion, garlic, basil, and fennel seeds. Sauté the vegetables until onion begins to brown (about 5 minutes).
8. Add all tomatoes with juices.
9. Bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan and incorporating them into sauce.
10. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover with lid slightly ajar.
11. Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.
12. When sauce has simmered for 30 minutes, puree it in food processor until almost smooth
*No food processor? Use a blender.
13. Return sauce to the same skillet and add the meatballs.
14. Cover the skillet with lid slightly ajar and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes more.
15. When ready to serve, place on meatball on a roll, drizzle with sauce and some cheese and indulge.