Ah, finding the perfect meatball recipe. I have searched far and wide, high and low, for the perfect meatball recipe. And have always been thwarted.
The answer? A 100% pork meatball!
I know, I know.. this is not the classic recipe. Let me explain my reasoning, however. When making a meatball, you want the most moist, flavorful, and meaty combo possible. The flavors from pork provide this and hold up the best in a sauce like marinara. The classic italian meatball calls for a beef-pork-veal combo of meats. In my opinion, this is a waste… I find the veal flavor too subtle, and the beef flavor not particularly appealing, for a great meatball. Hence pork. Not to mention, you can save some money not buying 3 types of meat for 1 recipe. Frugally gourmet, you say?! It’s a win-win!
The next step for the perfect meatballs is making sure to season well. I suggest that after seasoning with all flavorings and spices, you fry up a small amount of meatball to determine if any other flavorings are necessary before proceeding.
My favorite seasons for meatballs are fairly simple- onion, garlic, and fennel. Fennel is such a great ingredient and I am on a huge fennel kick recently (read: Tomato-Fennel Soup Recipe). It is a classic Italian spice, and perfectly compliments the pork meatball and goes exceptionally well with marinara sauce. It really kicks the meatballs up a notch from tasty porky meatball to gourmet fancy meatball.
Trust me, you will be pleased.Next you need to add the ingredients that will help the meatball to maintain its moisture. I use fresh breadcrumbs (none of that freeze-dried stuff, please and thank you!), milk, and 1 egg. This sets you up for having the perfectly textured meatball.
Then, I like to bake my meatballs due to the convenience factor- you can easily freeze them after they’ve been baked for later use. Another option would be to pan fry and finish by braising in the tomato sauce.Speaking of tomato sauce… This marinara recipe perfectly compliments the pork, but feel free to use your own favorite marinara sauce recipe. Before serving, make sure to simmer for a few minutes, covered, so that the flavors of the meatball combine with the flavors of the tomato sauce. I served the meatballs plain and with a side of cheesey polenta and bread. This would work very well over pasta as well.
The Perfect Meatballs with Marinara
- For the Meatballs
- 1 lb ground pork
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs I used sourdough
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
- ½ medium onion grated
- 2 cloves garlic grated
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes optional
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- For the Marinara
- 1 onion diced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup red wine
- ½ cup water
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 1.5 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon honey
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
- Pour milk over breadcrumbs to soak. Press bread down into milk to absorb. Allow bread to become very soggy, and then drain off any extra milk.
- Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl. Combine mixture thoroughly, using your hands or large spoon. Do not over-mix.
- Roll meatballs into 12 large meatballs and place on baking sheet, evenly spaced.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the Marinara sauce.
- Sweat onions with ½ teaspoon salt for about 20 minutes. Add garlic during last 5 minutes. Add cayenne and stir.
- Add tomatoes, red wine, and water. Season with remaining salt and honey.
- Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until sauce is nicely reduced and alcohol has cooked off.
- Use immersion blender to partially blend sauce (optional). Taste and add additional seasoning as needed.
- Add meatballs, cover, simmer for additional 10 minutes.
- Enjoy on its own, or serve over pasta or polenta.