I’ve got two kids and, oddly enough, one of them didn’t care for pasta until she was about two-and-a-half or so. Growing up, my grandma always knew what I would request for my birthday dinner: spaghetti, meatballs, and her angel food cake (well, not hers, I’m pretty sure it was Betty Crocker’s!). Needless to say, it shocked me that my firstborn could care less about noodles, especially considering all those stories flying around about kids, noodles, and butter happening three times a day. Shocking. Just shocking. She was all about the fruit and meat, such a carnivore! My youngest, however, loved carbs out of the starting gate, a girl after my own heart.
The meatballs that I grew up with were made with great beef, locally sourced from family in Alberta most of the time, but loaded with MSG laden seasoning salt. They were always barbequed, yum. Alas, I’m not a huge fan of seasoning salts that I don’t understand the ingredients of and it is very challenging to BBQ year-round where I now live, Calgary. So, I set out on a mission this past year to find the perfect meatball for our family.
I was so lucky and received a copy of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque over at Simple Bites as a gift (because my sister knows me well!) and, bam, meatball success – her Tender Baked Meatballs are wonderful. My cookbook spine is cracked at that recipe and the page is rippled from overuse we have made it so much and it got me excited, wondering, ‘What else is out there?’
Some web related rabbit holes led me to Smitten Kitchen and Deb Perelman’s liberal take on an Ina Garten recipe, what Deb calls Meatballs and Spaghetti and it is from here that I have made several adaptations, especially cooking method, and have come up with our family’s favourite meatball that (almost?) all the cousins have demanded the recipe for after visits. It’s my new secret weapon for serving to a table full of hungry monsters, ahem, kids, and my in-laws love it, too.
I serve these meatballs with Aimée’s Mild Marinara Sauce (from BEJJ) because her recipe makes a massive batch that I can freeze up and use for spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, or any creative clean-out-the-fridge type marinara primavera.
Time: 30 mins
Our family’s favourite meatball recipe.
Adapted from smittenkitchen.com where it was adapted from Ina Garten
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 – 1 1/2 c bread crumbs (white is best; whole wheat is sweeter)
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley and/or green onions
- 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 – 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 – 2 eggs
- 1 – 2 c finely grated zucchini or mushrooms or finely chopped spinach or chard, optional
- Preheat oven to 425 F with rack in middle to upper middle position.
- Lightly rub an empty roasting pan with olive oil (although you can skip this step, especially if your meat is on the fattier side).
- Make your bread crumbs if you need, too, and don’t stress about exact measurements here.
- Mix all ingredients together with your hands in a big bowl.
- Shape into 1 1/2″ diameter balls and put on the pan.
- Bake for about 15 minutes.
- Check for doneness and if all’s good, switch the oven function to broil for 3 minutes to crisp up the tops.
- Remove from the oven and add the meatballs to your pot of sauce to keep warm.
We eat these most Wednesday evenings and it makes enough for two meals for our family of two adults and two young kids (and leftovers freeze fine).