We have been making these meatballs for as long as we have been cooking. They are based on a Marcela Hazan recipe that has been tweaked over time. My mother prefers to cook them in a pan as the recipe below states, and I prefer to cook them in the oven as I'm usually chasing children around and not always up for babysitting the stove! Either way they turn our tender and tasty. We always make double and freeze half. Again, my mother freezes with sauce, and I freeze after baking before making sauce. A tip on freezing without sauce, place them on a sheet tray and freeze, then stack in a ziploc bag.
Meatballs and Tomatoes
A slice of good quality white bread
1/3 cup milk
1 pound ground beef, preferably chuck (can sub dark meat turkey)
1 tablespoon onion chopped very fine
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoon freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, ground fresh
Panko bread crumbs
1 Cup fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped or canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped up, with their juices.
Put the milk and bread in a small saucepan, and turn on the heat to low. When the bread has soaked up all the milk, mash it to a pulp with a fork. Remove from heat and cool. Put into a bowl the chopped meat, onions, parsley, basil, egg, garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the grated parmesan, nutmeg, the bread and milk mush, salt, black pepper. Gently knead the mixture with your hands without squeezing it. When all the ingredients are evenly combined, shape it gently and without squeezing into balls about 1 ½ inch in diameter. You can use an ice cream scooper.
Place breadcrumbs on plate, enough to cover the plate. Roll the balls lightly in the breadcrumbs. Choose a sauté pant that can subsequently accommodate all the meatballs in a single layer. You may need to do in batches. Pour in enough vegetable oil to accommodate ¼ inch up the sides. Turn on heat to medium high, and when the oil is hot, slip in the meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides, turning them carefully so they won’t break.
Remove the pan from the heat, tip the pan slightly and with a spoon, remove as much of the fat as possible. Return the pan to the burner over medium heat, add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, a pinch of salt, and turn the meatballs over once or twice to coat them well. Cover the pan and adjust the heat to cook steady simmer for about 20-25 minutes,. Taste, correct for salt and serve alone or with spaghetti.
Alternative cooking method: Preheat oven to 350 F- place meatballs on cookie sheet with lip after rolling breadcrumbs and bake until cooked through about 20-30 minutes. Then, add both meatballs and tomatoes to sauté pan and heat until sauce is bubbling.