This summer has been crazy. Crazy in a good way, certainly. Between RAFFL, my column in the Reader, trying to maintain my garden, and joining two community boards and respective committees of interest, it’s been just a little hectic. And then once in awhile an opportunity presents itself to relax or do something fun. I mean, more fun than everything I already do, of course. That said, I’m very much looking forward to an unplanned getaway to Montreal this weekend.
Yet unless I want to eat at 10pm every night, I realized earlier this summer that I needed to do some planning ahead. These meatballs were one tactic. Last month, I baked up a large batch and then popped them in the freezer for a quick protein addition for a variety of meals.
I used half ground beef and half ground sausage, which is not entirely the meatball norm, but what I think really makes these stand out is the large amount of fresh herbs.
Basil, parsley and oregano were my choice at the time. Thyme, sage, rosemary, fennel and even mint, could all be interesting though. You might just need to adjust the amount of herbs depending on what you go with. The amount I suggest in the recipe is based on larger leafy herbs like parsley and basil. Use more or less, to your liking.
I started by sauteing some onion with garlic and red pepper flakes.
Then mixed that together with the ground meat, chopped herbs, plenty of grated Parmesan, an egg and breadcrumbs. Don’t be fooled by the spoon pictured here, meatballs are meant to be mixed and formed by hand. Just wash your hands well before and after handling the meat to avoid contaminating anything. Coating your hands in a little oil before rolling the meatballs could help prevent the meat from sticking to you.
I rolled them out just larger than the size of golf balls and browned them in the oven. Once cooled, I slid the whole tray into the freezer. Freezing them separately at first, then transporting them to a freezer bag ensured they didn’t all stick together and that I could easily take just a few out as needed. After I take them out of the freezer, I make sure to cook finish cooking them through, as I was only looking to brown them at first.
How do I use the meatballs? If I remember, I transfer a few from the freezer to the fridge earlier in the day to defrost. A few times, I’ve braised a few in a little broth, thickened the broth to make a sauce, and served them with vegetables and a grain. Or, I’ve gone the traditional route and simmered them in tomato sauce to toss with pasta. I’m craving a meatball sandwich right now, so maybe that’s my next use. No matter what, I’ve saved myself some time trying to put together a balanced meal.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- a pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 egg
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh chopped herbs, such as parsley, basil, mint and oregano
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup bread, cubed
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- A splash of milk
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the garlic, red pepper flakes and onion. Saute until translucent, about 8 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Reserve the pan.
- In a large bowl combine the meat, egg, herbs, Parmesan, bread, milk, salt and pepper. Use your hands to gently, but thoroughly, combine it all together. It should be very moist. If not, add just a tiny bit more milk. Return your pan to the stove and place a small piece of the meat mixture in the pan to cook through. Taste and adjust the meat seasoning, as needed.
- Roll pieces of the meat into balls, just slightly larger than the size of a golf ball. Space them out on a baking sheet. If it's lined with parchment paper, all the better. You'll need at least two sheets. Place the sheets in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Let the pans cool, then place in the freezer until frozen through. You could place them on a large plate or platter, if that works better for you. When frozen, transfer the meatballs to freezer bags, seal, and use within 3 months for best quality. When ready to use, ensure that the meatballs are heated well and cooked through.