These are some good meatballs. They use common household ingredients. They are easy. They are Delicious as Hell. I owe a debt of inspiration to Smitten Kitchen, whose recipe I have made and increasingly changed about half a dozen times. The result is – get this – even simpler than the original.
What will you do with your newfound meatball largesse? You can put these meatballs in your meatball hole via any number of carbular vehicles. Car-bs. Car. Pasta makes a pleasant bedding. Toasted buns make a sandwich of great magnificence. Plain, on a train, to ice a sprain? Feel the meat-pain. I also suggest a green salad along with, because scurvy is a leading cause of death among meatballers. You can also throw a bag of chopped frozen spinach into the sauce if your virtue has been called into question.
Let’s get to it. Like most of my recipes, this one is pretty flexible. I’ll indicate some areas where you can substitute items. The one area where you can’t be flexible is this: DO NOT, under any circumstances, stir the bejeepers out of your meat-mix. Be gentle! DO NOT flap, slap, or otherwise maul the meatballs as you form them. The less you flagellate your creation, the more tender and delightful the end result will be. Don’t be afraid to mix and form, but DO exercise some restraint. This is not the time to relieve your pent-up aggression at the expense of the finished dish.
You’ve got a couple of options for cooking these meatenheimers. My preferred method is oven roasting, followed by a simmer in the sauce. This works for a couple of reasons. First, it saves you the problem of having the meatballs fall apart as you stir the sauce. Second, they get browned and delicious without a frying step. Third, you can do this on foil and save yourself both the frying clean up AND the pan clean up. Fourth, you can make the sauce and pasta while the meatballs cook, making this a very reasonable undertaking for a post-work meal. (Have I sold you on this method yet?)
If you doubt me on this, you can go ahead with a pan frying/sauce simmering type method. Don’t come crying to me if it sprays grease all over your kitchen and you get tiny burns all over your exposed dermis. That’s a YOU problem, bucko.
If this seems like altogether too many meatballs for your reasonably-minded domicile, you can certainly halve the recipe. Or, you can freeze half of the uncooked meatballs on a sheet pan, tumble them into a Ziploc, and make future-you a really happy camper.
Triumphant Meatballs (serves 8-10)
1 lb ground beef (80/20 is fine)
1 lb ground pork (you could sub in ground turkey, do all beef, whatever.)
1 1/4 c plain breadcrumbs
2/3 c milk or water
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
For the sauce:
2 large (28 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 onion, chopped (optional)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a half sheet pan (18” x 13”) with aluminum foil for ease of cleanup.
In a large bowl, gently combine the beef and pork. Add the breadcrumbs, eggs, milk, garlic, salt, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Recall my earlier admonition to mix just until the ingredients are gently combined and distributed. It’s easiest to do this with your (clean!) hands, or a wooden spoon. You don’t want to pulverize them. Using a light hand, shape them into balls a little bigger than a golf ball, about 2” in diameter. You’ll end up with 30-32 generously sized meatballs. Place them on the sheet pan so they’re not touching. Bake on the middle rack for 25 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and beginning to brown on top.
While they bake, prepare the sauce. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot. If you’re using onion, add it now, and saute over medium heat until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant. Don’t let it brown, or it’ll get a weird, bitter flavor. Add both cans of crushed tomato, the salt, and the crushed red pepper. Bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and reduce heat to low. It wouldn’t be wrong to add a splash of red wine at this point. Or you can just splash the wine in your face.
When the meatballs are done, place them carefully in the sauce and let them simmer for another five minutes. They’ll hold together pretty well, but I still recommend having restraint in stirring. Taste and see if it needs additional salt, black pepper, or hot pepper. Place them on your delivery system of choice, or eat them straight out of the pot, like a wolverine.