Impressive Italian Meatballs

Ok, so everyone has “the greatest” meatball recipe ever. My meatballs have never failed me and are relatively easy. I ensure that they don’t fall apart by adding both an egg and a bit of milk-soaked bread as binders (an old Italian trick – fughetaboutit!). You can use breadcrumbs too, but I prefer the texture of regular bread that’s been toasted or left out a few days to get stale. Mine are also extra special because I stuff some ooey-gooey melty Mozzarella on the inside of each meatball. Not only does this keep your meatball moist and impress all of your friends with a crazy surprise, but it also helps tell you when the meatballs are cooked all the way through (the cheese visibly oozes out of the meatball a bit). I guarantee that every Italian will love these though (and maybe your family or a hot date!)

I use a combination of ground beef and ground sausage to get the right proportion of meat to fat and to add extra flavor. If you can’t find mild Italian sausage (either ground or in casings that you’ll have to strip it out of), then you absolutely can use regular, plain ground pork). But the sausage helps you out in the flavor department A LOT – and why not make less work for yourself?

My trick too is to make the smallest patty possible of your meatball mixture and quickly fry it off to test for seasoning. This makes sure you know what it tastes like and can adjust without eating raw meat (yuck!). Cut your mozzarella up ahead of time so that you don’t get all of it contaminated with the raw meat.

Servings: 13-14 meatballs, depending on how big you want ’em

Timing: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground round/ground beef (try to find something that isn’t 80-20 or 95-5, which is the meat to fat ratio…you want a bit of fat, but not so much that it gets greasy – you have pork to help out here with it too)
  • 1 lb ground mild pork sausage (you can get the links and de-case the sausage, but usually you can find it ground up and out of the casings like your ground beef is) or ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 5-6 slices of white Italian bread, toasted (or really really really stale), cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 8-10 ounce block of whole milk mozzarella cheese – make sure it’s a pretty soft selection – not the super hard stuff like cheddar, but it doesn’t have to be the balls sold in liquid either, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • Tomato sauce of your choosing
  • Olive Oil

DIRECTIONS:

Soak the bread in enough milk to coat it. Let sit for about 1-2 minutes. Wring out the bread, getting as much milk as you can out (it’s okay if a few drops get in). Discard remaining milk. Mix together the spices, herbs, garlic, egg, and bread. Add the soaked bread into the mix and combine. Add the meat and combine well.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add some oil. Flatten out a very small patty of your meat mixture. Fry on both sides for about 1-2 minutes each side. TASTE IT! Adjust your seasonings to your liking – this is all about what tastes good to you.  Don’t skip this step!!!!!!! If you need to bump up the oregano, bump it up. If you need more salt, add more salt (most likely your culprit). Fry off little bits more than once if you need to so that you are confident your meatballs taste how you want them to. Once you are satisfied with the seasoning, form the mixture into 13-14 balls of a size between a tennis ball and a golf ball (somewhere in between the two, I just couldn’t think of an appropriate sport ball reference). Once you form a ball, use your thumb to punch down a hole in the center. Shove as much cheese as you can in here (depending on how you cut your cheese, about 2 1-inch cubes). Roll back into ball and seal up completely to protect your cheese. Do with all of the meatballs.

Sear your meatballs in the frying pan. It should take about 3-4 minutes on each side or until you get a nice golden brown color. (They will still be pretty raw – don’t panic – we aren’t done yet!) Once you’ve seared both sides, add to a hot, simmering pot of your tomato sauce and cook in the sauce for about 10-15 minutes or until you can see the cheese oozing out. Serve with spaghetti (or heck, by themselves!) with some extra tomato sauce on top. Garnish with any leftover herbage.

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