Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Perfect Dinner Companion

Plumped with pine nuts, cilantro, raisins and cumin....
Slathered in BBQ sauce and slipped into a crusty roll...
Simmered in a cardamom-spiked broth with chickpeas and spinach...
Dipped in a lemon and garlic yogurt sauce...
Scattered over a bed of couscous, roasted vegetables and harissa....
Tucked into a plate of spaghetti and fresh tomato sauce...
Dunked in roasted garlic mayonnaise along with roasted potatoes and green beans...
Dribbled over mashed potatoes and gravy...
Or, simply, coated in ketchup straight out of the leftovers bowl (as my son prefers them...)

Yes, I am talking about meatballs. Every time that I find myself in a budget crunch, anxious to serve good-quality meat inexpensively and unsure of what else to cook (besides tuna melts) - the lowly meatball comes to my rescue. Humble, malleable and a droll little crowd-pleaser, the meatball is a lifesaver. If you have ever had dinner at my house, chances are you that you have encountered a meatball somewhere on your plate. If you were at our wedding (six years ago!), you probably ate a meatball. I love them. I love them partly because they are delicious, and partly because they never taste the same way twice. Hence, the overwrought list beginning this post.

However, after years of haphazardly throwing meatball components in a bowl and hoping for the best, I have finally written down a formula. The basic meatball. From there, you can do whatever you want to with them.

The Basic Meatball
(serves 2-4)

1 pound ground beef (or turkey, or beef and sausage, or lamb...)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 Tablespoons catsup
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
(Fresh parsley is always nice, regardless of cuisine)

Gently mix together with your hands (DO NOT OVERWORK!) and shape lightly into 1-2 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart and bake in a 400 degree oven until done on the inside and slightly browned on the outside (about 15-20 minutes). If they are small and sturdy, you can toss them into a hot skillet and crisp them up a bit after they come out of the oven, although no one really complains about the lack of pan-frying when they are eating them, bite after delightful bite, for their dinner.

Now, let your imagination run wild!


  1. Oh, yes. I think I'll have to try these next week! Mmm.

  2. molly LOVES meatballs. :D i usually buy them at trader joe's but i will have to try your recipe now!
    do i remember correctly that you are also scandinavian? have you had them at ikea? i bet you could make a tasty version of ikea swedish meatballs. :)

  3. Axon, last week I bought lean ground pork (all white meat) because it was half the price of beef or turkey. I made meatballs with it that were absolutely divine. I am hooked--both on the price, and on the taste and benefits of "the other white meat".

  4. In fact, I remember helping to make the meatballs for your wedding! They were delicious, and I have often thought of asking you for the recipe, so this is excellent. We will have to try all of your recommended variations as well...

  5. I don't really think of anything with meat in it as being inexpensive, least of all a dish composed primarily of meat, such as meatballs. But a few weeks ago, we made another meal for the Ronald McDonald House, and I planned a meatball meal, and I was shocked at how inexpenisve it was! Something like $60 for the whole meal, which fed 30+ people!

  6. I just finished making this recipe with the lb of ground beef I had in the freezer. I ate two as soon as they came out of the oven! Yum!