I was not a meatball lover when I was a kid. This was partly because my mother's version of meatballs was this thing called Surprise Balls, and it was my least favorite meal of all. Surprise Balls were large (about the size of a goose egg) ground beef balls with rice and tomato paste mixed in. The rice never quite seemed cooked, and the paste made it dry and depressing. But I recently started thinking about tiny meatballs because Eve (14) is obsessed with Italian Wedding soup, and every time she buys it at the supermarket, I think to myself, I can do better than that! Plus, I want her to eat organically so that means, for now, we have to make it ourselves. So I decided to make a big batch of tiny meatballs and freeze them for multiple uses. In fact, I might just designate March as Tiny Meatball Month and do a series of blogs on all the things you can do with tiny meatballs (foodwise, I mean).
This recipe for tiny meatballs is a combination of my Sicilian mother-in-law's recipe (she calls for chopped onions) and my Abruzzise grandmother-in-law's recipe (she calls for chopped garlic). I took both the onions and the garlic out because I think if you want either of those things, you can add them to whatever you are serving the meatballs with. Interestingly, the main difference between this meatball recipe and the one for Italian sausage is the addition of fennel to the sausage. So if you want to make tiny sausage meatballs, just add fennel. (Although, my actual sausage recipe does not use breadcrumbs or egg, either).
You could, if you want, make these into big meatballs, too. But big meatballs are just kind of big and boring to me. Tiny meatballs are so cute and bite-size. Also, I experimented with whether to roll perfect little balls between two hands (slow!) or pinch off little balls (faster). After they are cooked, you can't tell which was which, so I say pinch and get it done faster because cooking all these meatballs is a fairly tedious process. ALTHOUGH, the whole point of making such a big batch is to freeze them so that later you can just quickly pop them into or onto whatever you are making. So this is a good Sunday kind of activity.
A Big Batch of Tiny Meatballs
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 3 Tablespoons or so chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup grated Romano cheese
- Olive oil for cooking
- Mix all this stuff together in a bowl.
- When it's all mixed together, put some olive oil into a frying pan (I prefer cast iron) and start pinching little balls the size of marbles and putting them into the pan.
- Turn them to brown on all sides (and cook until well done, since there is pork in them).
- When they are done, put them on some paper towels on a plate to absorb the excess oil.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com