Sunday, May 13, 2012

Meatballs for Pasta

My Italian-American meatballs are made two ways - one firm and small for soups and the other a little larger and semi-firm for simmering away in garlic and basil infused tomato sauces. For Meatball Soup I use dried bread crumbs (Progresso or your favorite is just fine or you can get that mortar and pestle out and use your own well toasted bread). But when I make them to eat with pasta, I use soft fresh bread.

It is important to bake the meatballs separately before adding to the sauce. Otherwise the fats from the meat get all mixed up with your otherwise beautiful and healthy sauce. Nothing mindful about a fatty sauce.

Meatballs for Pasta

What to assemble and measure first because you are so mindful in your preparations. All amounts chosen with the knowledge as to just how flavor filled your family loves its food which will guide your choice in the range of seasoning measurements:

One very large bowl
1 egg
2-4 teaspoons ground garlic*
1 t ground onion
1-1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried or 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 slice of whole wheat bread, torn into tiny pieces and wet down with just a little milk (think tablespoon or so)
1/2 cup or more of your favorite hard Italian cheese - Parmesan, Romano or any of the variations - sharp or mild as is your preference
1 pound of lean ground grass fed beef** (it's better for you and tastier)
1 large baking dish (I love my Pyrex cuz I don't have to worry about the metal flaking off and it cleans easily)
Non-stick spray

* come to think of it, this ingredient is not so very mindful. I use ground garlic not after considered thought, but habitually. I've always done it that way. I suspect that the granules will distribute more evenly which is a good thing. But if you want to crush or mince garlic, be my guest. Ditto with the onion.

** do NOT get "grass finished" beef. It means they sat in those inhumane unsanitary cages and were fed things a cow was not designed to eat and finally force fed some "grass" before taking to market. The words "grass fed" are a legal statement of how the cows were fed. Become a vegetarian rather than buy meat that was not humanely raised.

What to do, or how to have a lot of fun with messy stuff:

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Spray the pan with non-stick spray.

In the large bowl add the egg and seasonings and mix using your hand. Dump in the soaked bread and mix again. Dump in the cheese and mix again. By now your hands are gloriously messy, but you're not done yet! Now dump in the beef and mix using that messy hand. Knead and smash until the bits are all nicely and evenly incorporated.

Spray the pan with non-stick spray. Shape the meat mixture into large balls and arrange in the pan.

Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or til they start to brown and the meat is cooked. The length of time depends on the size of the meatball. There is no need whatsoever to overcook them in the oven if you are going to simmer them in sauce, so don't fret it. Just let it go 25-35 minutes as is convenient for you.

Inhale. Salivate. Repeat.

Use tongs to lift the meatballs out of the fat and nestle them gently in a large pot. Cover with your favorite sauce. If you let the meatballs cook long enough to get the lovely brown bits on the bottom, make sure you scoop them out with the meatballs and add them to the sauce.

The balls in the pic were the result of a double batch. It made 16 meatballs - this is required whenever my son is home for dinner. A single batch (the recipe above) will get you eight goodly sized delectable balls of meat. If you are interested in nutrition facts, here they are. I've got it set to show the calories and such for one large meatball.

Yes, you can sub in ground turkey - humanely raised free range turkey. Increase the seasonings though as the milder meat will need more help. Definitely use the "or more" part of the cheese too.

Note for the seasonings: I use the high end always. Garlic lovers in my family and so that seasoning is always off the charts too far for some. I list the minimum required in all my recipes, so ramp it up to suit you. Use your nose after the mixture is ready to be shaped and if it smells great, it's right. If it doesn't smell awesome yet, add more. Enjoy.

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