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Italian Meatballs

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People ask Andrew if being married to a food blogger means he eats wonderful meals all the time. His response? “My life is a series of weeks. Sometimes you eat ice cream for seven days. Sometimes it’s all soup.” In my defense, there was salad in the fridge at all times.

Even when I wasn’t experimenting with desserts, Andrew frequently munched on store brand frozen meatballs he zapped to the consistency of rubber in the microwave. They were more convenient than tasty, but my real issue with these rounds of processed protein went beyond their chemical-laced aftertaste. They eroded my faith in my culinary skills. There I was, a food writer, busy making from-scratch granola, yogurt, ice cream and chicken stock, and my husband was snacking on industrial convenience food. Oh, the shame.

Despite my protests, Andrew regularly returned from grocery shopping with a package or two of what he dubbed The Meatballs of Shame. He hid them in the basement freezer, munched on them when I wasn’t home or slid them under paperwork in his office so I couldn’t see him snacking.

The solution? I now make and freeze bite-sized meatballs to replace his snack of choice. Andrew admits they taste better than the pre-packaged version. The Meatballs of Shame remain at the grocery store for others, but in our house? We have tiny, oven-baked snacks based on a recipe from chef Michael Smith.

Italian Meatballs
Printable Recipe

Makes up to 48 bite-sized meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated using a microplane
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs with milk. Set aside so crumbs can fully absorb milk.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using your hands, mix the ground beef, onion, garlic, egg yolk and Parmesan.
  4. Add the breadcrumb mixture and oregano, mixing again.
  5. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix well.
  6. Form mixture into rounds about the size of ping-pong balls, and place on a parchment or silicon lined baking sheet with a rim. Feel free to make the meatballs bigger or smaller than this, but just be consistent so they bake evenly.
  7. Bake the meatballs for 15 to 25 minutes (timing depends on how big you make the meatballs).
  8. You can add these to spaghetti sauce right away or allow them to cool and then freeze for later.
  9. Frozen meatballs should keep for up to 3 months.
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0 Responses to Italian Meatballs

  1. Divawrites April 7, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    I have had those meatballs of shame in my freezer. My daughter and husband love them, although I’m not crazy about the texture. I might give these a try.
    Confession time…I HATE putting my hands in ground meat, so I use my standing mixer to mix the meat, and then have a meatballer to make the meatballs. I have to make a big batch for it to mix properly, though.

  2. Christie's Corner April 7, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    DivaLisa, you can double or triple this recipe easily, so your mixer will work but that requires you commit to the recipe (sans garlic, right?). Can you wear gloves to mix a small batch?

    Love the idea of a meatballer. I nearly bought one but couldn’t justify the cost or drawer space. How do you like yours? If Andrew goes on a meatball binge, I might have to get one. I’d love to know your thoughts.

  3. cheryl April 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    Has Andrew really given up his frozen convenience food habit? Check the back of the freezer, there, under the ice packs and puff pastry; he may have switched to frozen fish sticks instead now that you’ve obviated his need for meatballs.

  4. FRANCESCA April 7, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    These sound wonderful Charmian. I’m going to try this version.

  5. Andrew April 7, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    Cheryl- I can assure you that I will never switch to fish sticks. As a product that comes from the ocean and/or lake, fish sticks are to be avoided unless heavily treated with malt vinegar. So, no fish. I do still hide mixed nuts, but that is another matter.

  6. Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart April 7, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    Ha! Meatballs of shame are often used in dog training. There’s a little known fact.

    Still … I laughed at the phrase since my sister and I were talking the other day about “The Bread of Burden,” aka that darn amish friendship bread.

  7. danamccauley April 7, 2009 at 6:02 pm #

    what a good wife you are – saving your hubby from the icky meatballs! That has to be worth a diamond or a trip to Hawaii!

    I love meatballs, too. The only bought ones I can manage to enjoy are the fresh, ready to cook ones by Michaelangelo.

  8. Christie's Corner April 7, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    Cheryl, I see Andrew has set you straight on the fish sticks. Good idea though. He can be a sneaky one :-)

    Francesca, if you try them, let me know what you think. I’m always nervous when my Italianesque recipe meets a real Italian.

    Andrew, I am going to ignore you. For now.

    Roxanne, dog training? That’s priceless. And I’m with your sister on the Amish bread. Andrew dubbed it World Domination Bread, but I think “the Bread of Burden” is equally fitting.

    Dana, good to know about the Michaelangelo meatballs. You never know when you’ll have a meatball emergency. As for the diamond or Hawaiian vacation? I’m actually aiming for a trip to Tuscany, but I do like the way you think!!

  9. Elyse April 8, 2009 at 1:14 am #

    I love that you’ve replaced the meatballs of shame! Good for you. I bet yours taste a million times better. Who doesn’t love a good, homemade Italian meatball?!

  10. Divawrites April 8, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    The meatballer (I have 2 different sizes) came from a Regal catalogue. It’s not great because if the mix is even a bit too moist, the meat sticks in the sides. However, it still beats messing up my hands.
    I know Pampered Chef has one, and I am a PC junkie…might have to check it out.

  11. Christie's Corner April 8, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    Good to know, Diva. I used my tiny ice cream / cookie dough scoop. I love Pampered Chef, too and would be willing to buy one of theirs if they work. Think I’ll pass of Regal’s since meatballs are quite moist.

  12. Rumela August 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    I was made this Italian meatballs for dinner tonight, and it was delicious! I was a little nervous it wouldn't have enough depth of flavor, but it turned out scrumptious. even my hubby was loved eating this…as long as he can use his fingers. thank you for shearing your post.

  13. Christie's Corner August 20, 2009 at 5:11 pm #

    Rumela, thanks so much for letting me know how your meatballs turned out. I'm thrilled you and your husband like them. By the way, my husband likes to eat his with his fingers, too!

  14. Jojo February 26, 2011 at 2:25 am #

    They sound fabulous! I will give them a try this week. I was wondering if you used fresh breadcrumbs (chopped in food processor) or dried breadcrumbs.

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