The Art of the Meatball
There’s just something special about Meatballs! In fact, I think Meatballs are so amazing, so special, that they ought to be considered their own food group. At the very least, they have become an art form unto themselves. Just think about it: meatballs come in a lot of sizes – even different shapes. Almost every culture in the world has its own traditional form of meat ball. In the Middle East, for example, meatballs (called ‘Kofta’) are made with lamb, shaped into logs, and either baked or grilled on skewers. Spain and Mexico are famous for their Albondigas; Sweden is famous for its savory Swedish meatballs. And of course, we are all intimately familiar with the Italian meatball.
At MorningStar Kitchen we make a lot of meatballs throughout the year because to us, they are the essence of comfort food. Not only are they inexpensive and delicious, but they are also amazingly versatile. They can be made of beef, pork, veal, venison, lamb, turkey, chicken, sausage, or even beans and vegetables. They can be served in a soup, on a toothpick, or in a sandwich. They can be seasoned to fit almost any flavor profile; they’re great with a lot of different sauces and can be served alone, or with pasta, flatbread, rice, or potatoes. They’re even great for breakfast!
To me, there are two keys to making good meatballs: First, before starting on the meatballs, I make a ‘slurry’ out of the bread crumbs, eggs, milk, and seasonings. I let the slurry stand for 20 minutes before adding it to the meat mixture. This then allows the meat to absorb the other ingredients, keeping it moist and light. Secondly, don’t overwork the mixture! Overworking the mixture leads to meatballs that are both dense and tough. Keeping these two tips in mind, meatballs are incredibly easy (and fun) to make! And even better, they freeze well. So you can keep several batches on hand in your freezer and pull them out on short notice to make an applause-winning meal anytime.
Because of their versatility, meatballs are a staple, a ‘go to’ recipe around MorningStar Kitchen. Actually, more than being a recipe, they are a formula.
Depending on the type of recipe we plan to serve, we start by selecting the meat mixture. If we’re creating an Italian dish, we use pork and veal. If we’re going Greek or Middle Eastern, we use lamb.
If we’re serving Swedish meatballs, we mix beef and pork. For our Breakfast meatballs, we use pork sausage. And if we’re making meatball soup, we’ll usually use chicken or turkey.
What makes making meatballs so much fun is the almost-unlimited list of ingredients you can add to the meat mixture: wild mushrooms for Polish meatballs; allspice and nutmeg for Swedish; Chimichurri for beef cocktail meatballs; garlic and parmesan cheese for classic Italian; and Harissa or Ras El Hanout for Moroccan. We also add lemon, capers and goat cheese to our chicken meatballs to create a Piccata profile.
When we announce that we’re serving meatballs around MorningStar Kitchen, we’re always rewarded with a cheer! Meatballs are one of the most requested recipes around here. And once you make meatballs an important part of your culinary repertoire, we’re confident that your family and friends will start cheering, too!