If you've listened to our latest podcast, you know that it's all about making meatballs in an electric mixer. If not, catch it here. A stand mixer works best but you can certainly make them by hand (gross).
You have to start a little early for these--to soak the bread crumbs in milk. And you have to brown them before you can simmer them. It's more time than work: a little to do here, a little there.
As you know, Bruce makes these most of the time with jarred marinara sauce. As he explains in the podcast, read those labels!
Mostly, this all adds up to a fabulous dinner. If you want to serve them over cooked pasta, use dried, not fresh (too limp). Buy a high-quality dried pasta, one without eggs or fillers.
Dinner for 6, maybe 8. The meatballs and sauce cooked together freeze well (without any pasta).
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 cup whole or 2% milk
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound Italian sausage meat (no casings)
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 quart (4 cups) jarred marinara sauce
1. Position the rack in the center of the oven; heat the oven to 400F.
2. Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk in a small bowl for 20 minutes. Gently squeeze by the handful over the sink to remove as much milk as you can without turning the breadcrumbs to mush. Place them in a large bowl--or the bowl of a stand mixer.
3. Add the ground beef, sausage meat, cheese, egg, fennel seeds, oregano, sage, thyme, salt, nutmeg, and red pepper flakes. Use a electric mixer at medium-low speed to combine these ingredients, working them through the beaters without turning them to mud, until uniform, well combined, and soft.
4. Grease the inside of a large, lipped baking sheet with 2 tablespoons oil. Use a 1/4-cup ice cream scoop to make 18 to 20 balls from the meat mixture, releasing them in evenly spaced lines onto the baking sheet. (Alternatively--and blech--rub your cleaned hands with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, gather up the meatballs in 1/4-cup increments, form them into meatballs, and lay them on the prepared sheet.)
5. Bake for about 15 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. Meanwhile, bring the marinara to a simmer in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low to maintain a slow simmer.
6. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce in the pot. Cover and continue simmering for 40 minutes, until the flavors have blended (and the meatballs have cooked through). Serve over cooked spaghetti, polenta, or on their own with lots of grated cheese on top.
Note: You can omit all the dried spices and use 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning blend. (Check the bottle to see if it includes salt--and thus whether you should omit or add the salt.)