If you polled a large group of international eaters on what makes the perfect meatball, chances are you’d get more impassioned answers than you ever imagined. Whatever meatball criteria you held sacred before posing this query will undoubtedly be called into question, as you’ll have hordes of enthusiasts riled up trying to convince you that their take on the savory morsels deserves permanent placement at the pinnacle of mythical Meatball Mountain.
Some prefer meatballs slathered in thick, zesty tomato sauce spiked with fresh oregano and basil. Others want them coated in rich, brown gravy, studded with cracked black peppercorns and a hint of red wine. Purists are vehement about using only one kind of meat in a recipe, while another camp of connoisseurs insists that a carefully measured blend of beef, pork, and veal is the only way meatballs were truly intended to be made.
There’s also the argument about whether baking, pan-frying, or, in less common instances, steaming or boiling results in the best finished product, as well as whether or not you should add fillers, such as bread crumbs and or eggs to the mix to achieve your desired texture.
Instead of getting in a meatball frenzy on which meatballs are best, here’s to hoping the world’s meatball madness can be used to bring cultures together instead of driving them apart. We believe that all meatballs deserve equal billing as meaty masterpieces, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the different approaches for rolling up these delectable spheres across the globe.
You’ll find fish sauce-and-Sriracha-soaked specimens from Vietnam; pan-seared, nutmeg-spiced pork varieties from Scandinavia; and classic Italian ones laden with garlic, parmesan and herbs. You might even discover a few meatball types you’ve never encountered, such as the minty qofte from Albania, deep-fried bitterballen from Amsterdam, and spongy Lion’s Head from China.
There really is no best or perfect meatball, let’s be real — there’s just an innumerable amount of methods for achieving the same awesome idea. Now, let’s get to the meatballs.