Certain dishes pull off a hat trick of ease, freezer-friendliness and tastiness, time after time. So it’s no wonder those comfort food standbys, meatballs, are making cameos across social media. (Ahem, are you following us?) Here’s how to do right by these weeknight supper favorites, which can easily transform into lunch the next day on crusty bread, be popped into broth for a riff on a traditional Vietnamese soup, or be chopped up for ragù. We’ll walk you through smart tips, some beauties from our favorite bloggers, and our own knockout best-of recipes.
Make a Better Meatball
You’ve got your meat picked out, and you’re ready to roll. First, wet your hands so you don’t end up with meat all over them. Second, don’t overpack the meat. It’s tempting to make tight, tiny little orbs, but you’re overhandling the meat, which could result in tougher, less fluffy results. When in doubt, add milk to your bread to create a panade, keeping the finished product moist rather than tough. Add flavor-boosting ingredients like onion, which you can grate so it’s less obvious, garlic, Parmesan and herbs. And use the right pan: cast-iron if you’re searing, and a rimmed baking sheet for the oven.
To the delight of umlaut lovers everywhere, IKEA has finally released its Swedish meatball recipe into the wild. But there is more than one Swedish meatball out there, and we love the looks of these sweet little babies from Spoon Fork Bacon, which are arguably a little easier to make, and ready in less than an hour.
Dried fennel and grated Parmesan are the secrets to these gorgeous chicken meatballs from The Modern Proper. We also love the looks of this verdant, nut-free broccoli pesto they’ve whipped up to put these over the top.
Once you get started making meatballs, there’s a desire to perfect your recipe. We love that Gimme Some Oven dreamt up a pork-beef ball designed for any sauce (right down to retro grape jelly!) “Serve it with Italian marinara sauce, Swedish cream sauce, American bbq sauce and beyond!” she writes. Perhaps we shall!
It is truly unfair that Italian, tomato-based red meatball sauces (though they’re excellent) get all the hype. The gorgeous Spanish sauce, Romesco, is equally satisfying, sweet and nutty in equal measure, and a snap to prepare. Canned piquillo peppers and slivered almonds are the secret to these pork-beef numbers.
It’s worth remembering that if you make them small enough, meatballs can be briefly pan-fried or seared for flavor, then popped under the broiler to cook. It’s a heck of a trick to remember during the dog days of summer. These lamb minis nod to India, with a cilantro raita that’s very cooling.
A meatball can nod to whatever cuisine you’re feeling that night. These Thai delights redolent of ginger and lemongrass are just as good with Greek herbs and flavors. (Studded with toothpicks, they make a beautiful passed appetizer.)
This healthy riff on Italian wedding soup packs nutritious grains like farro and a whole bunch of spinach into a nonetheless delicious dish. Turkey is the star player; it’s worth keeping in mind that inexpensive poultry can shine in this preparation. Adding meatballs to soup is a smart way to stretch the meat, eat less of it, and save money.
Is there anything meatballs can’t do?