Rule #28: Ice cream scoops are for more than just ice cream.
I love me a good meatball. Swedish. Italian. Asian. Sweet + Spicy. Meatballs of all persuasions are just dandy in my book. This version of Italian meatballs is a twist on the famous Rao’s Meatballs in East Harlem. I decided to swap out Italian turkey sausage for the pork/veal to keep it on the lighter side, but the flavor is still there in all its Italian glory.
This recipe will give you about 16 good-sized meatballs, each coming in at 180 calories, 11g fat, and 15g protein. Pair these with some roasted veggies or a salad, and you’re off to a pretty nice little dinner if I do say so myself.
The combo of breadcrumbs + water keeps these little Jewels of Italian Delight moist throughout the cooking process. I like to brown them (shallow fry) and then finish cooking them off in my favorite marinara sauce. You can also make these ahead of time by baking them off in the oven, storing in the fridge (or freezer), and then reheating in marinara later on when you’re ready to grub.
Here are the players for this round of Meatball Mania:
ground beef + Italian seasoned ground turkey + eggs + Parmesan + parsley + garlic + salt + pepper + breadcrumbs + EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) + marinara (not pictured, but coming up to bat later)
Like I said before, I swapped Italian seasoned ground turkey for pork. You’re welcome to keep the pork sausage if that’s your jam, too. It’s all good in this one. If you can’t find ground Italian turkey sausage, you can always purchase the links of Italian turkey sausage, cut open the casings, and dump the meat in with the beef.
So basically, you mix everything together (beef through breadcrumbs) in a BIGGO bowl. Get in there with the best kitchen tools money can’t buy: your hands.
Once everything is well incorporated, add in your breadcrumbs and mash away again.
This is what your mixture should look like before the moisture maker (I mean water).
Now drizzle on some lukewarm water (hot will cook the meat and cold will make the ingredients difficult to blend).
Peek-a-boo! My favorite big meatball maker: The Ice Cream Scoop. It keeps the meatballs uniform; otherwise, I’d have some the size of basketballs and some the size of ping pong balls. Uneven meatballs means uneven cooking and ain’t nobody got time for that.
Okay – so here we go. Scoop, dump, and roll.
Place ’em on a large Pyrex or other freezer-proof dish (baking sheet lined with parchment or foil works great, too). I usually get about 16 meatballs with this recipe.
Freezing the meatballs for just a bit (about 25 minutes) keeps them from falling apart when you fry them. I hate it when my meatballs crumble into little pieces when they’re frying. I simply hate it, I tell you!
Meanwhile, get out two jars of your favorite marinara. Pour it all into a large pot and start warming it over low heat. I found this good stuff at Trader Joe’s, and my foodie heart went pitter-patter. The Silver Palate has an unbelievable cookbook if you’re ever looking for one.
So now’s the time for the meatball browning. Pour in some olive oil until you’ve got about 1/4″ in the pan. Heat the EVOO until shimmering over medium-high heat. Add in the meatballs, being careful not to crowd the pan, and brown on all sides (about 1-2 minutes per side). I usually turn mine about 3 times total to get all the different sides.
You’re going for golden-brown on the outside. They still won’t be cooked on the inside, but that’s okay. We’re going to finish cooking them off later.
Drain the meatballs on a paper towel-lined plate, and repeat the process with the remaining meatballs.
NOW! Here’s where our paths can be divided depending on when you’re cooking these Italian bits of deliciousness.
You can at this point pop the browned meatballs on a baking sheet and bake at 350 until they’re cooked through (about 15 minutes). Then, store them in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just heat them up in some marinara when you’re ready to eat.
OR you can go ahead and put the browned meatballs into the warmed sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes over medium-low heat.
Flip the meatballs to coat them in the sauce, then simmer another 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. This process of finishing the cooking of the meatballs in the sauce is a way of “poaching” them, and it keeps them oh so sinfully moist!
Voila! Italian Meatball Bliss.
We garnish ours with more Parmesan and some flat-leaf parsley. Basil would do ya good, too. Either way… put on your red and white checkered bib and dig in!
1 lb. 90/10 ground beef
1 lb. ground Italian seasoned turkey
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1 cup Parmesan, grated or shredded
1 tbs. Italian parsley, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 cup lukewarm water
Olive oil, for browning
2 jars marinara sauce
Combine beef and turkey in a large bowl. Add eggs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, S&P, and red pepper flakes. Mash everything together using your hands until ingredients are evenly distributed. Add in the breadcrumbs and mash into meat mixture. Pour in the water and mash again until combined.
Using an ice cream scoop, form balls using your hands. Set meatballs onto a Pyrex dish or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze meatballs for 20-25 minutes or until firm. This will keep them from falling apart when you brown them.
Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pour in olive oil so that the oil is about 1/4” deep. Heat the oil until shimmering (you want to hear a sizzle as soon as you put a meatball in).
Brown the meatballs in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes per side, turning to brown all sides of the meatballs. The middle part of the meatball will still be raw at this point, and that’s okay.*
Remove the meatballs from the oil and set to drain on a paper towel lined plate.
Heat marinara sauce in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the sauce is warmed, gently drop in the meatballs, cover, and cook 5 minutes. Flip the meatballs to coat them in the sauce, cover, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and basil or parsley.
*If you’re making the meatballs ahead of time, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 at this point. Place meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through**. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Warm them in marinara sauce over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.
**To freeze: Allow meatballs to cool on baking sheet. Store in large Ziploc bag or freezer container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight, then warm in sauce as above.