Meatballs are usually not my favorite thing to make. They are time consuming, messy and usually don’t come out the way I want them too. The flip side to that is IF I don’t make them myself I’m almost guaranteed to have a meatball with a terrible taste and texture. my husband had been hinting at wanting meatballs for a while. Several times I’d purchase a pound of sausage and end up using it in a soup or other recipe. Finally, last night I got all my things together and tried to tackle a recipe that had been lurking in my “I need to try this one day” file. Unfortunately, everything I had was not all that was needed to complete what promised to be succulent and flavorful meatballs. So despite my better judgement and forgetting my previous experiences I pressed on and came up with my own variation of the recipe I was going to try. It could not have turned out better, if I do say so myself :D.
If you love bacon you’ll want to stick around for this!
Succulent Italian-Style Meatballs
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. mild/hot spicy Italian sausage
4 slices fatty Applewood smoked bacon, finely chopped (works best when partly frozen)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup lard (rendered bacon fat works perfectly)
1/3 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tbsp. fresh oregano (OR 2 tsp. dry oregano)
1 cup fine white breadcrumbs ( I used Panko)
1 tablespoons half and half
In a large mixing bowl beat together the eggs, buttermilk, and half and half. Stir in the garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and allspice. Add in your beef, sausage, bacon, lard, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Time to get your hands dirty :D. Using your hands carefully incorporate all the ingredients until they are well mixed. There should be no more globs of lard and all the cheese and breadcrumbs should be evenly incorporated. Cover the mixing bowl with some plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This will make the meat mixture much easier to handle and form into even balls.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. After chilling the prepared meat, remove it from the refrigerator and form into golf ball size spheres and place them evenly on two parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake the meatballs for 30 minutes, turning them over and switching the baking sheets half way through.
If serving them with sauce you may opt to change your cooking procedure a bit and baking for only 20 minutes then adding them to your simmering sauce for another 20. This will impart some of the flavors of the sauce to penetrate the meatballs and result in an even juicier result. Since I’ll be using some of mine for pizza toppings – sliced thin and frozen for later – I decided only to simmer some of them for 10 minutes in the sauce just before serving.
A note on sauce – if at all possible, make your own. I used Kirkland Marinara just because it was what I had. It would have been better if I could have at least added a little red wine to the sauce to even out the flavors and enhance the richness. It was still good though. We ate the meatballs with sauce and a side of mixed vegetables and sliced warm baguette. They’d be great on pasta or rice though too.
I was so nervous they wouldn’t turn out until I tasted them. As soon as I took I bite I had to go around the house sharing the victory of my experiment. The bacon and rendered lard added a wonderful smoky, salty richness that helped keep the meatballs moist.
Here are the recipes which inspired my experiment –
This sauce looks pretty good too – How to Make Quick and Easy Italian-American Red Sauce That Tastes Slow-Cooked