The humble meatball is an everyday delicacy found in the oldest cookbooks in theworld. Food historians credit ancient Persia with the origin of the meatball. Kofta, the first recorded meatball dish, was created by rolling leftover ground lamb into orange-sized balls and glazing them with egg yolk and saffron before cooking.
Meatballs, easy to eat in a hurry, were made with whatever meat was on hand. Dropped into steaming bowls of soup or smothered in sauce, the preparation variations traveled across Europe and Asia and into the new world. The savory meatball is now a staple in American, Brazilian, Canadian, and even Mexican cuisine.
Although we Americans associate meatballs with Italian food, pasta and pizza, these delicious morsels of ground meat are a hearty meal on their own. Typically prepared with ground beef and pork mixed with breadcrumbs, garlic and egg, meatballs are extremely versatile on the dinner table.
In her book, “The Way to Cook”, Julia Child writes that the otherwise unusable leftover scraps from the butcher’s block have given rise to some of our most lofty and delicious creations, like magnificent French pates, meat loaf and meat balls. A great meat loaf (or meatballs) can be made from any combination of beef, turkey, pork, veal, lamb, rabbit, or even venison.
“Your main concern,” Julia writes, “is that the it be carefully flavored, reasonably moist, and holds together.”
The recipe for Country Meatballs is a variation of a recipe from my archives. Lamb, ground pork and or pork sausage, and ground chicken are combined with chopped onion, garlic, chopped carrots, tomato paste and herbs. Feeling adventurous? Ground venison and ground rabbit are delicious too. To keep the recipe gluten free, instead of fresh breadcrumbs, use ground rolled oats as a binder.
Before shaping your meatballs (or meatloaf), Julia recommends that you check the seasoning of your meat blend. Cook up a small amount in a hot fry pan, let cool, and taste analytically. Correct the seasonings as necessary, exaggerating the flavors for the best results.
In our family, we really enjoy meatballs. Comforting, packed with protein, easy to eat on the go, this is one food everyone craves. Although a bit time consuming to create, meatballs are easy to prepare in large batches. I freeze them in packages by the dozen.
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 pound ground pork or pork sausage flavor of your choice, we like garlic
- 1 pound ground chicken, turkey or rabbit
- 1 cup chopped onion
- ½ cup chopped carrot
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground rosemary
- Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- Assemble ingredients and tools. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Using your KitchenAid Mixer fitted with the meat grinder attachment, grind up each meat.
- Add the ground meat to a large bowl. Using your hands, gently mix the meats together.
- Add the chopped veggies, breadcrumbs, chopped garlic and tomato paste. Stir to mix. Add the eggs, mustard and herbs. Mix well.
- Cook up a small amount of the mixture in a hot fry pan and taste. If needed, correct seasonings.
- Using a scoop, portion into meatballs into one-ounce balls onto a sheet pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees until set and they give their water, about 10 – 15 minutes.
A dish made with meatballs is a quick and easy meal to prepare. Simply heat the meatballs in your favorite sauce or gravy and serve with pasta, rice or mashed potato. Meatballs over grilled or toasted French bread make for a great meatball sub. For delicious cocktail fare, meatballs may be heated in a crockpot in either a spicy tomato sauce, or sweet and sour sauce. Now that’s my kind of magnificent and comforting food.