Monday, March 20, 2017

Baked Meatball Extravaganza, But Please Fry Them First

I saw this recipe in Good Housekeeping’s March Issue and I just had to make it. 

The picture was drool-worthy, although I didn’t actually use their recipe (and I hate the name they gave it). But whatever you call it, the whole reason for this dish is to end up with bubbling hot, gooey-with-cheese meatballs to go over steaming spaghetti.

Use your own meatball recipe or mine…or GH’s. For my meatballs, I use whatever breadcrumbs I have handy. Sometimes they’re fresh, sometimes they’re dried and sometimes both. This time, I cut the heels off the French (Italian?) bread I was using for garlic bread and processed those. I added dried breadcrumbs to make up to one and half cups.

In spite of them being called BAKED meatballs, you’re not going to get away with NOT frying the meatballs first. Sorry. If you add them uncooked to the sauce, you’ll end up with steamy, poached meatballs. If you bake them instead of frying, you won’t get that lovely, dark, crusty edge which adds so much flavor. For the well-being of the overall dish, get one more pan dirty (which is the story of my life) and fry the meatballs before they go into the sauce. For the sauce, make your own, use my recipe or even a good jarred one is okay.

Use a scant 1/4 cup of meat for each meatball.

Pile sauteed meatballs in a baking dish.
Cover meatballs with tomato sauce.
Top with cheese.

Bake on foil covered baking sheet.
Serve with garlic bread.

Baked Meatballs Extravaganza (makes 24 meatballs)
Printable recipe here.

For Sauce:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
Optional: ½ cup red wine (just skip it if you don’t want to use it)
1 can (28 oz.) diced or crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tsps. dried oregano

For Meatballs:
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1½ cups breadcrumbs
big handful of parsley
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

For sauce, cook onion in olive oil until completely softened. Stir in red wine, if using. Simmer, uncovered, to reduce for 5 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil and simmer gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and oregano, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes. (30 minutes won’t hurt.)

For the meatballs, if you need to process the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs, do it before adding any of the other ingredients and then set them aside. Process parsley until chopped. Add back in the Parm and breadcrumbs along with the salt and chopped onion, and pulse until mixed.

Add contents of the food processor to ground meat in a large bowl. Mix until combined well. Form 24 meat balls. (I use a scant ¼ cup for each meatball.) Spray a large nonstick pan with nonstick spray and sauté the meatballs in two batches - about 3 minutes on each side on medium heat should do it. Remove the meatballs from the pan and deglaze the pan with a bit of the tomato sauce to pick up more flavor. Stir that tomato sauce back into the big batch.

Place meatballs in greased round or rectangular baking dish. Cover with sauce. Sprinkle over shredded mozzarella cheese. Place on a foil-covered baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375°F. oven for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbling enthusiastically. Serve with spaghetti. (Reserve a bit of the sauce to toss with the spaghetti, if desired.)


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I admit I rarely ever fry my meatballs. I stick them in the oven to brown before putting them in sauce. Frying brings a risk of my meatballs sticks and thus losing parts of my meatballs to the pan. It also keeps the shape from being round. Plus it saves time because I can brown them all at once. I will make an exception when I'm making a big pot of Sunday Sauce where I really want that meatball grease in my sauce.

Sue said...

Rach, That is so true about how meatballs flatten out a bit when you fry them. A little nonstick spray and a good solid spatula (plastic for a nonstick pan) should get rid of any sticking. This is making me hungry anyway you cook them!