By Barbara Beltrami
It seems as though there are as many kinds of meatballs as there are ethnicities to create and cook them, and like most cuisines they make use of flavors that come from ingredients indigenous to the area from which they originate. Surely meatballs, along with so many other dishes, flavors and culinary creations, have become one of the favorite dishes brought to this country by immigrants and fused into what we’ve come to think of as our own cuisine.
Perhaps the most popular are Italian meatballs simmered in a savory tomato sauce; but there are also Swedish meatballs, flavorfully topped with their pale gravy. These are only a few of the many ways cooks over the centuries have rolled ground meat into tasty orbs. No matter your own ethnic origins, these little round treasures from far away places are sure to please your palate.
YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings
2 pounds ground beef, pork or one pound of each
4 large eggs, beaten
2 cups unflavored dried bread crumbs
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon each fresh flat leaf parsley, basil, and oregano (or 1 teaspoon each dried)
One clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
One 28-ounce can tomato puree
One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, pureed with their juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One whole onion, peeled
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine meat, eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, herbs garlic, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Dipping hands into cold water occasionally, roll mixture into balls the size of a golf or Ping-Pong ball and place on baking sheet with half an inch between them. Bake until brown on top, about 15 minutes, turn and bake another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat tomato puree and plum tomatoes to a simmer, add oil and onion and stir. Gently drop browned meatballs into sauce and stir to submerge them. Simmer or cook on low flame 2 to 3 hours, until sauce is somewhat reduced and thickened. When ready to serve, add salt and pepper to sauce, if needed, and remove onion. Discard or save for another use. Serve with pasta, crusty bread and a salad.
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup minced onion
1 cup unflavored bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
One onion, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup flour
¾ cup cream
DIRECTIONS: In a large skillet melt two tablespoons of the butter and sauté the onion until golden brown. In a large bowl, soak the bread crumbs in the milk, add the meat, egg, onion, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Dipping hands occasionally in cold water, shape the mixture into meatballs the size of a golf or Ping-Pong ball and roll in 3 tablespoons of the flour. Reserve one tablespoon of the flour for later.
Melt remaining butter in skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides over medium heat. Shake the pan or nudge the meatballs with a spatula so they retain their round shape. When browned and cooked through, remove and set aside to keep warm. Combine the reserved flour with the cream and with a wire whisk stir gradually into the pan juices. Simmer 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently until thickened. Pour over meatballs and serve hot with noodles.
Middle Eastern Meatballs
YIELD: Makes 8 servings
1 pound ground lamb
½ cup minced onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon finely minced dried rosemary
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried coriander
1 cup plain good quality Greek yogurt
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Mix lamb, onion, mint, cinnamon, lemon zest, salt and pepper, rosemary, and ½ teaspoon cumin. Roll into 16 meatballs and bake, turning once, about 15 minutes per side, until browned. Meanwhile mix yogurt with remaining half teaspoon of cumin and coriander. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with rice or couscous, sliced tomato and cucumber and baked eggplant.