Introduction: Nonna's Best Ever Meatballs
As a full-blooded Italian, I know a good meatball. Unfortunately I find that whenever I leave my nonna’s house I am surrounded by a mess of unauthentic meatballs that just taste like a salty/meaty concoction. Today you will learn that just a handful of common ingredients can turn into possibly the best thing you will ever eat. This recipe is very easy and takes very little time, so prepare yourself for mind blowing, pillowy soft and flavorful meatballs.
Prep: 20 minutes Cook: 40 minutes Yield: 35 meatballs Level: Easy
- 2 ½ lb. ground beef (80:20 lean to fat ratio)
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 2 large eggs
- 5 large cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese
- 8 slices of stale bread
- ½-¾ cup milk
- 1 bundle of fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- PAM cooking spray
- Cheese: Feel free to use Parmesan cheese if that is what you have at home. IF you do this, adjust the salt to 1 teaspoon because Parmesan has a lower salt content than Romano.
- Bread: The bread doesn't have to be stale, if it is fresh you can either toast it OR add half the milk. Try to use Italian bread, but any mild tasting bread is perfect. If you do not wish to use sliced bread, you can also use breadcrumbs, use 1½ cups.
- Milk: You can use any % you would like.
For convenience, start by measuring out all the required ingredients and lay them out on your prep surface for easy access.
Place the bread slices in a large bowl. Pour ½ cup of milk in the bowl. Feel the bread and if all the pieces are not completely soaked through, add the remaining ¼ cup of milk. Transfer the bread/milk mixture into a smaller bowl, and set it aside for later use.
NOTE: I know using stale bread and then soaking it in milk sounds unappealing and a bit unusual, but there is a reason why you have to do this! Stale bread is very dry, so by adding milk to it you can control the moisture content of your meatballs. If you add these components separately, the bread will dry out certain parts of the meatball, and the milk will make other parts mushy. This step is necessary to get an even distribution of moisture (milk) and binding (bread) throughout the meatball.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat with a fork.
NOTE: Keep in mind this bowl needs to be big enough to hold all ingredients.
On a clean cutting board, peel and mince the garlic cloves into very small pieces. If you don’t want to do that work, feel free to put them in a food processor or bullet, and pulse until the garlic is cut into tiny pieces. Add the garlic to the bowl with the beaten eggs.
Clean and cut the ends off of the parsley (about 1 inch). Then roughly chop it, stems and all. Again feel free to pulse this in the food processor or blender until it's in small pieces. Add the parsley to the egg and garlic mixture.
Add the measured salt, pepper, and cheese to the large bowl, and mix.
Take the bowl with the milk and bread and mash the contents either with your hands or a fork. Mash until the bread and milk make a paste. Add this mixture to the large bowl with the eggs and mix.
NOTE: Make sure everything is mixed really well because when the meat is added in the next step you want to work the meat as little as possible.
Add all of the ground meat to the mixing bowl. With your hands or any mixing utensil of choice, mix all of the ingredients so that the egg mixture is just incorporated into the meat.
NOTE: Try adding the meat by handfuls instead of dumping the meat into the bowl in one giant log. When the meat is in smaller pieces, you don’t have to mix as much. For mixing, less is more in this situation because over mixing results in dense and tough meatballs. Although this tip is not necessary, it will greatly improve the texture of your meatball!
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and preheat the oven to 375°F.
NOTE: Again you might think this step is a waste of time, but it’s really important with controlling moisture. In the next step you will be rolling the meat into balls and if you roll them at room temperature, the heat from your hands will melt the fat in the meat. The fat will end up on your hands instead of being inside the ball, which results in a dry meatball.
Take about 4 ounces of the meat mixture and shape it into a ball by rolling the meat between your palm in a circular motion (not a lot of pressure is needed). Roll them for only a few seconds, they don't have to be perfect. The ball should be about a palm full.
NOTE: You can spray your hand with cooking spray (or a drop of vegetable oil) to minimize sticking. Also take any rings or bracelets off because this can be very messy.
Spray a large pan with cooking spray, until it's fully coated. Warm it on medium heat and then add the meatballs. Continuously flip them with tongs until their entire surface is browned (about 5 minutes). Transfer them to a baking sheet and finish cooking them through in the oven for 35 minutes.
- The second picture is how brown you want your meatballs. Any lighter and your meatballs could fall apart and any darker could result in dryness.
- You can use 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil if you prefer that over cooking spray
After the 35 minutes of baking is completed, the meatballs should be dark brown on the outside and the inside should have no pink. Enjoy as is, with pasta or on a sandwich!