THE meatballs

Posted on August 17, 2011. Filed under: Dinner | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

It has been a great week for this girl.  Close friend of handmixed and fellow food lover, Julia, was making a whirlwind US tour over the past few weeks.  The finale was held in DC and was kicked off by a trip down memory lane.  As my former roommate and cooking partner in crime, Julia has been attributed with past posts such as marinated salmon, peanut noodles and sesame green beans as well as the most recent post of pommes anna (which a friend smartly recommend that I rename pommes julia in honor of the two Julias who inspired me to make it).  She and I also created a dish about 4 years ago that has reached cult status among friends and is one of our crowning achievements.  *THE* meatballs have been called many things…but their un-family friendly unofficial official name will remain a mystery for now.  Let’s just say they are awesome.  Inspired by Oprah’s “favorite things”, this was the recipe for one of her favorite lunches and was shared with us by one of Julia’s closest friends.  We took the original meatball recipe and kicked it up a notch.  And by a notch, I mean a whoooooole lot.  Our recipe has been adapted over time and can easily be doubled or tripled depending on how many people you want to impress.  We have tried these more times than I can count.  Originally, we served them with pasta.  Turns out it was unnecessary and all we wanted was meatballs.  So we tried them as a sub.  Still unnecessary.  These days, we simply put them in a bowl with a bunch of sauce on top and maybe with some garlic bread to dip in the sauce.  Whenever they are on the menu, it’s pretty much all we want!

The keys to these meatballs:

  1. The raisins.  Neither Ju nor I are raisin fans.  Yet when chopped up, they add a layer of flavor and  mysterious sweetness that will have your diners guessing.
  2. The diced mozzarella.  I usually get an 8oz ball.  You don’t want shredded.  The little cubes of cheese allow for little bursts of melty goodness within the meatball instead of having it all blended too much.
  3. The frying followed by baking.  It makes the meatballs extra work but coating them in breadcrumbs and then frying them before adding them to a baking dish filled with sauce leaves these heavenly balls of goodness super moist and delightful.

So now that I’ve divulged the secrets…let me explain the rest!

The Meatballs:

*I should note that the amounts on these are estimated for basil, garlic, red pepper flakes, Parmesan and parsley.  We never really calculate but it’s just generally whatever looks “good” to us.  Feel free to add more or less depending on what feels right to you.

1 pound hot Italian sausage
2 ounces fresh breadcrumbs, plus 8 ounces to coat meatballs
1 whole egg, plus 4 more for egg wash
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, plus 2 ounces for coating
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup of fresh chopped basil
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more or less depending on preference)
Pinch salt and pepper
3 ounces black raisins, chopped
4 ounces white flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for frying)
2-6 cloves chopped garlic
1-2 chopped shallots
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1-2 jars of good tomato sauce (I use two different flavors normally, a spicy and a garlicky)

Start by preheating the oven to 375F and heating a deep fryer to 400F.  Instead of a deep fryer, I use a medium to large sauce pan with a few inches of oil in the bottom and put the dial between 6 and 7 on my stove.  Once you are frying, you’ll be able to tell quickly if the oil is too hot or too cold.

In a large bowl, combine sausage, 2 ounces of breadcrumbs, 2 ounces of Parmesan, parsley, basil, red pepper flakes, garlic, 1 egg and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Ready to mix!

Mix well to distribute seasonings (hands are easiest).  Next add the chopped raisins and the diced mozzarella to the bowl.  The mozzarella should be diced but not TOO tiny because then it blends in too much.  You also don’t want huge hunks.

Diced mozzarella

Mix in the raisins and cheese until evenly dispersed throughout the meat.  There will be a lot of cheese.  Form into meatballs and set aside.  The exact size of the meatballs is up to you – we used to do HUGE ones that took forever to bake.  If you make them 2-3 inches big, that is a reasonable size.  Just try to make them all similar.

Time to ball it up

Put flour in one bowl, remaining eggs in a second bowl and mix 8 ounces of breadcrumbs with 2 ounces of Parmesan in a third bowl.  Whisk the eggs.  Lightly coat the meatballs in flour (ps if you skip the flour – no harm, no foul.  As you can see in the picture below, we forgot!), dip in egg and roll in breadcrumb mixture until thoroughly coated.




Fry the meatballs in batches until they are a nice, golden brown on the outside.  Usually it takes a few minutes at most.  Remove from oil and drain on a paper-lined plate.  If you want to test the oil, put one meatball in at first.  If there are no little bubbles, the oil is not hot enough.  If the oil is too hot, the meatball will burn (duh).

Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a large frying pan or a baking dish (I always use a baking dish) on medium high heat.  Add shallots (and some extra garlic if you want) to the olive oil and cook until golden.  Add some red pepper flakes and the brandy and stir.  Pour a layer of sauce into the pan and combine with the shallots/brandy mixture.  Layer meatballs into the baking dish, covering each layer with sauce.  If you use a frying pan, it might only be one layer but just make sure the meatballs are covered in sauce.  I usually use about a jar and a half in the dish I use.  Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes (or until thoroughly cooked). I usually stir at least once while baking.

The meatballs will be crazy hot so be careful.  Serve as desired and enjoy these big balls of heaven!


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4 Responses to “THE meatballs”

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It’s like a risotto ball sausage ball! Amazing.

I have made these, from this very recipe. Legendary. Unforgettable. Dear reader, give these a try. You too will thank Lindsey, and also… yes, Oprah.

Your pictures are making me salivate. The chunks of cheese are inspired, really. I also love it when you throw in some pieces of jalapeno/spicy peppers. Reading this made me miss you Lindsey!

Eug – You were the original source for the recipe! I am forever in your debt for that 🙂 The next time I’m in NYC, I hope we can have drinks!

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