Sometimes you’re hungry for homemade but your busy day got in the way. Not to worry. These meatballs are easy to make but even easier to make ahead, freeze, and warm up on no notice. And while we’re being lazy reach for the pantry and cover that pasta with a jarred sauce. Not just any sauce but something good like Rao’s Marinara or you can go local with Mandina’s Red Gravy that they have at Dorignac’s.
The absolute key to good meatballs or meatloaf is the addition of something called a ‘panade.’ It can be bread crumbs, panko, or shredded stale french bread, but what is does is render the meat moist and fork tender. These meatballs will yield to moderate pressure and you won’t have a dense golf ball flying off your plate when you cut into it. And this particular recipe gives you the option of making the panade out of rice which gives it a bit of a boudin feel. (That said, I prefer the french bread option.)
Once the veg is sauteed, softened up and cooled down put everything into the bowl and mix lightly with your hands. Let it all squash through your fingers a time or two and roll into balls or ideally use a scoop. After you’ve done this you are ready to cook the meatballs and you have two options. The best meatballs will always have a bit of a sear on them and you can achieve that in a pan on your stove top or on a cookie sheet in a hot oven. Guess which one I use? Yeah, the easy one. A cookie sheet and a hot oven will render a perfectly good sear on your meat and you can walk away while they cook.
In the written recipe I’ve specified a premixed seasoning since it’s well….easy. But when I made this for the posting I was out and as you can see I crafted my very own mixture (salt, pepper, thyme, paprika and God knows what else) which you can do too.
As for meat ball size I think medium is most versatile so I use a medium cookie scoop for a medium meat ball. If you don’t have one of these grease up your hands and start rolling always remembering not to overwork the meat. And if you’re using a scoop don’t try to smooth the craggy edges of the balls since they’ll brown up nicely and add some crunch.
Finally, you need to heat up whatever sauce you’re using and let the meatballs simmer in it for a few then plate up and serve. As you can see this is photographed with both spaghetti and linguine so be creative with your noodle choices. Top it with some grated cheese and dish up!
- For the meatballs:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup diced onion (or shallots)
- ¼ cup diced celery
- ¼ cup diced green or red bell pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ lb. ground chuck
- ½ lb. ground pork
- 1 cup bread crumbs (or precooked white rice)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning*
- For the sauce:
- 1 15.5 oz. jar of Marinara
- For the Pasta:
- 1 lb. cooked to package directions
- Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer vegetables to large bowl; let cool 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine Ground Beef, pork, vegetables, breadcrumbs, egg and seasoning in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Shape into 24 (1-1/2 inch) meatballs. Don't over work the meat. Just lightly mix all together.
- Place meatballs on broiler pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake in 400°F oven 16 to 19 minutes until well browned.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions & drain.
- Warm up the sauce, add the meat balls, then combine with the pasta. Top with Pecorino cheese or Parmesan and serve.
If you plan to freeze these there are two options. Freezing them raw or after cooking. To maximize speed and convenience I cook them all when I make them then thaw & drop in the sauce as it's heating.