There are meatballs, and then — if your family has Italian roots, at any rate — there are grandma's meatballs; fork-tender, juicy, and full of flavor. There's nothing like a big bowl of your grandma’s homemade meatballs topped with her slowly simmered tomato sauce. If you've ever tried to recreate this pasta-topping, hero-hugging masterpiece and failed miserably, don't lose heart — even if your grandma won't teach you the secret family method. With just a few simple tips and the right recipe, you can create meatball magic that rivals hers.meatballs is what kind of meat you will use. Though lots of delicious meatballs are made using ground beef alone, many meatball recipes call for a mix of other meats, such as ground veal or pork. Using a blend of ground meats adds flavor (and, in some cases, moisture) to the finished meatballs. You can make meatballs using leaner cuts of ground meat (like turkey or bison), but you'll have to work harder to keep them from drying out.
Then, add some flavor to your mix of ground meat. Chopped onion, minced garlic, and fresh parsley are pretty common, but you can easily customize this mix. Try shallots instead of onions if you want additional sweetness, use fresh rosemary instead of parsley for an earthier flavor, or try adding a pinch of ground chipotle powder for some smokiness. If there’s a blend of spices or ingredients that you like in another dish (say, onions, garlic, ground cumin, and cilantro), you can add it to your meat in lieu of other seasonings and make a near-endless number of new meatball creations.
Once you have your ground meat and other flavorings, you’ll need to bind it all together. Egg and breadcrumbs are pretty standard binding agents, but there are many ways to vary this basic combination and continue building flavor and texture in the meatballs. Try swapping the breadcrumbs with bread soaked in milk or chicken stock, crushed up crackers, or rice.
Grandma will certainly disapprove if she sees you using crackers or rice instead of breadcrumbs or spicing your meatballs with cumin and cilantro, but once she has a taste, the odds are good that she’ll be a little bit jealous. She might even ask for your secret recipe.
When it comes to making meatballs, there are lots of ways add flavor. Skip the seasoned breadcrumbs and add a cheesy, salty twist by using crushed Cheez-It crackers instead. Click here for the recipe.
Chicken Parm Meatballs
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.