how to make pork & beef meatballs
I decided to make meatballs today because I realized my little one, Kira, thought they came from a plastic IKEA bag.
And there you have it. I’ve said it. My dirty little secret. Yes, I love to cook. Yes, I take great pride in making many, many things from scratch for my friends and family. Yes. Yes, of course.
But I am also a bit of a pragmatist, and let’s face it, those IKEA meatballs are pretty darn good. I can eat 15 of them – on location – in about 1 ½ minutes flat, as long as they are slathered with that luscious lingonberry jam. I can, though I usually don’t. Food is meant to be enjoyed and not just swallowed, after all.
But now that I’ve made them, I realize how pointless it is to buy them. From IKEA. From anywhere, really. Even if they’re good. Even if they’re a good value at the cash register. They’re just too easy to make. It took me all of 30 minutes to make two meals’ worth.
AND, I get to decide what kind, and the quality, of meat I want to use to boot, which also allows me to steer clear of horse meat. Clearly. (Was that in bad taste, I wonder…) Generally, I like to use at least two different kinds of meat for meatballs because I find it makes the finished product tastier than if it’s just beef or pork. I used to include veal in the mix but have decided calves are too cute and their fate too tragic.
Now, as I was frying them earlier, it did occur to me that someone somewhere along the line was more design-focused than practical, or these little suckers would have been called meatpucks instead of meatballs. I mean, we’re supposed to brown them evenly all over BUT THEY ARE ROUND, which makes it a little tricky. Miraculously, the job gets done, however inconsistently.
As they were resting on paper towels (wrestling hot, scalding oil can plumb tire you out), I looked down on them and did feel a little bit of meatball love stirring inside me. I mean, they looked so cute and scrumptious. And since I knew exactly what was in them, I knew they had to be delicious, even in all of their 8-ingredient simplicity. I felt compelled to pop one immediately in my mouth.
If you plan on making these meatballs, I suggest having classic tomato sauce on hand. Meatballs and tomato sauce are like Laurel & Hardy, Fred & Ginger, Abbott & Costello…having both elements together gives you the outmost and fullest experience. Read…yum!
making pork & beef meatballs
Soak three slices of stale bread in a bowl filled with water for 10-15 minutes or so. (If you don’t, no worries. You can use toasted fresh slices of bread.)
When I set out to make meatballs this morning, I could have sworn that I had several slices of stale bread to use. But they were nowhere to be found, especially in their designated container, so I had to make do with toasting the little fresh bread I had on hand and making up the difference with bread crumbs. That’s the way it goes. Perfection is fleeting. Of course I would have loved to have made these meatballs with just soaked and squeezed stale bread. That’s usually how I make them, and they usually come out best that way. But by this point I had prepared all the other usual suspects and I trudged forward.
Then, firmly squeeze the bread to remove any excess water.
We are now ready to mix all the ingredients. In a large bowl, add ¾ lb. each of ground pork and ground beef, 2 eggs, 1 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, ½ cup of loosely packed parsley that’s been coarsely chopped, 1 cup of wet, squeezed-out stale bread or breadcrumbs (or a mixture of the two), and salt and pepper to taste.
Mix well. You should see little bits of parsley distributed evenly throughout the mixture.
I use one of those surgical gloves for this job so that I don’t have to scrape raw meat gunk from my fingernails afterwards, which really skeeves me out by the way.
With dampened hands, form little round meatballs. Place them on a dish as you go until you are ready to cook them. Make them as small or as large as you like. I’m like baby bear…I like them not too big and not too small.
Heat just enough olive oil to completely cover the bottom of a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.
Then brown the meatballs in batches to make sure you’re not crowding them in the pan. I ended up cooking them in two batches. Turn them frequently as they cook until they are all a nice, golden caramel color. This should take about 5 minutes or so.
Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon and place on a dish or platter lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Add the meatballs to half of 1 recipe of classic tomato sauce.
Reserve the other half for seasoning the pasta. Bring the pot to a boil and then allow the sauce and meatballs to simmer gently, covered, for 30 minutes. We want to ensure that the meat is cooked through, especially the pork.
Cook 1 lb. of spaghetti or any type of pasta according to the directions. Be sure to salt the water well. A good rule of thumb is 3 tablespoons of salt for 6 quarts of water, though I add a little more than that because I find the pasta more flavorful when I do. When the spaghetti or pasta are/is al dente, or still slightly firm, drain well. Place in a serving bowl and immediately half of the reserved tomato sauce and mix. Serve in bowls and then top with meatballs and additional sauce and a generous grating of freshly-ground Parmigiano-Reggiano.