What good is spaghetti without the meatballs? While meatballs might just seem like some ground meat formed together into a ball, there is an art form to making them come out as flavorful and tender as possible. Check out this simple guide for the next time you feel like making spaghetti and meatballs.

Classic Meatball Recipe

meatballs in tomato sauce and herbs

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions:

woman making meatballs
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the cheese, seasonings, shallots, garlic, breadcrumbs, and parsley. Mix everything together.
  • Break up the ground beef into the mixing bowl.
  • Crack the egg into the bowl and mix everything thoroughly. The egg will combine with the breadcrumbs to form a binding mixture, allowing you to form proper meatballs.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Form your meatballs so they measure between an inch and an inch and a half in diameter. Place them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then flip the meatballs over, baking for another 10 minutes or until the center is no longer pink.
  • For added flavor, add a touch more Parmesan while baking!

How To Cook Meatballs

Now that you've got the easy meatball recipe down, you can begin to broaden your horizons. Baked meatballs are the go-to option when it comes to preparing these little guys, but there are other ways to work them that yield different results in terms of texture and flavor. Check out these different methods on how to cook meatballs:

Deep Fried Meatballs

meatballs deep frying

Heating a pot of oil to 350 degrees and submerging the meatballs in the oil will give them a crispy, golden brown exterior while maintaining a juicy, tender inside. It's important to keep an eye on the meatballs when deep frying them, as it's easy to char the outside while the insides remain pink. Vary the time and temperatures to ensure your meatballs are properly cooked without burning.

Pan-Seared And Oven-Baked Meatballs

meatballs searing in a pan

Rather than throwing them straight in the oven, give your meatballs a sear on an oiled pan over medium heat. You can give them some good color and a slightly crunchy exterior while still keeping them moist on the inside. Sear them for one to two minutes, and then cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Steamed Meatballs

steamed meatballs

A common choice of meatball in cuisines such as dim sum, steamed meatballs are an incredibly moist treat, best served with a dipping sauce. Steaming meatballs takes a little longer (around 25 minutes of cooking time) to ensure that they are properly cooked throughout, but the end result is more than worth it. Pork is generally the choice of meat when it comes to making steamed meatballs, and be sure to add soy sauce to the mix for a distinct umami flavor.

Different Meats For Meatballs

While ground beef is the go-to choice for meatballs, different kinds of meat will yield different flavors and textures. Pick depending on your tastes!

Chicken

chicken meatballs in a bowl

Ground chicken is one of the leanest meats you can use for meatballs and is much lower in fat than ground beef. The flavor isn't as strong, so it's perfect for those who don't want to overpower their spaghetti sauce or those who want to add their own specific spices.

Pork

pork meatballs in tomato sauce

While higher in fat than other meats, ground pork is very tender when cooked and packs a lot of flavors. Pork pairs nicely with sweet ingredients, so adding a touch of honey to the recipe can make for some very unique and flavorful homemade meatballs.

Veal

veal meatballs ready to be cooked

A true Italian meatball, ground veal can make for the juiciest meatball you'll ever taste. The lean beef will taste even better if you add olive oil, oregano and basil to the mix, as the herbs complement the meat nicely. Veal is generally pricier than other varieties of meat, so save this one for special occasions.

Turkey

turkey meatballs in a bowl

Arguably the healthiest choice of the meats, ground turkey can make for some very lean meatballs that are mild in flavor. The soft texture of a turkey meatball means it will practically melt in your mouth when paired with a nice pasta sauce.

Meatball Sauce

meatballs steeped in sauce

Meatballs don't only have to be paired with spaghetti sauce to bring out their flavor. While they'll be tender and full of flavor on their own, a great way to enhance the taste of a meatball is to steep them in a sauce. It can be anything from just letting them sit in Worcestershire sauce to a more complex homemade sauce such as a honey garlic sauce. Whatever you end up choosing, simply fill a small pot or a crockpot with your choice of sauce, and let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for one to two hours on a very low heat. This will allow the flavor of the sauce to seep into the meatballs, making for some of the most flavorful bites you'll ever have.

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