Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Meatball Revolution

I really like spaghetti and meatballs. Who doesn't, really? Unfortunately for me and my meatball fondness, I really do NOT like the making of said meatballs. At least, not the standard way of making them: soaking bread crumbs (which I can't use because of the gluten issues in my household) in milk, beating in the eggs, sauteing the minced onions because I can't stand big bits of half-raw onion in my meatballs, forming every meatball individually, browning them all with the accompanying grease splatters, and then the inevitable falling apart in the attempts to turn them in the pan.

And after all that, there's still the chopping and sauteing and simmering to make the tomato sauce that the meatballs go in.

I am far, far too lazy for all of that. Which is why I usually cop out with meat sauce instead. This is inevitably disappointing, because in the end, it's just not a meatball.

Cue inspiration culled from several sources.

First I made the sauce. In the food processor. This idea I think I got from an old Cook's Illustrated recipe for a fresh tomato sauce. In this case, I just combined a big can of whole tomatoes (minus a little juice so it wouldn't be too thin), garlic, onion, basil, oregano, a tiny bit of vinegar, and an even smaller amount of sugar. Liquification--with a few chunks left--followed via machine and there was my sauce.

No chopping, no sauteing, no extra pan.

Next, with the remains of the sauce still coating the food processor, I combined all the meatball ingredients except the meat in the food processor. In my case, that means rice, eggs, garlic, onion, basil, and oregano. Whizzed the shit out of all of that until it was pretty smooth and then mixed it with the meat. The idea for this came from the kibbeh recipe I use, except I elected to keep the meat out of the food processor, mostly because it's a bitch to clean afterwards.

No soaking of crumbs, no mincing and cooking of onions, no beating in eggs with a spoon.

Next I adopted the cooking method from The Pioneer Woman's BBQ Meatballs, which is just to bake the meatballs in the sauce. She says to brown them first on the stove. I say, they're already in the oven and what is a broiler for? So I browned them under the broiler first, drained off some of the resulting liquid, covered them with the sauce* and let them bake away.

No spattering grease, no filth on the stove, no falling apart.

And that was it. One food processor, one Pyrex pan, zero grease splatters, delicious spaghetti and meatballs. My life has been revolutionized. And it only took 34 years.

* Next time I'm going to make more sauce, because after baking with the meatballs for 45 minutes, it had reduced so far there was just barely enough for the spaghetti.


Drew @ How To Cook Like Your Grandmother said...

Yeah, it took me years to figure out that you can first mix together everything else except the meat when doing burgers or meatballs. Huge difference in how long it takes to then mix it into the meat.

Anonymous said...

I am exhausted just reading about all this preparation! Mary in MN

tu mere said...

Guess I have to get a food processor now as I too absolutely love meatballs. I'm also guessing the blender I currently use for everything isn't as efficient or effective and much harder to clean as well.

How about taking 66 years. We never stop learning!

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I am all about the shortcuts. And less pans are always better.

- moi

sheila said...

Meatball subs is my answer to all of life's problems.

Amy said...

This looks great!! We too have trouble with wheat. Can you give me a close ratio of rice to meat?

Becky said...

Re the sauce: I suggest making the vinegar balsamic and also throwing in a couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Sheila: This would be perfect for subs, because of the super-concentrated and fairly dry sauce resulting from baking.

Amy: I never measure, but I think this time I used two pounds of meat and around a half cup of cooked white rice. And two eggs. Non-bread-crumb meatballs (and meatloaf) never stay together as well as the kind with bread, which is why the non-flipping aspect of this is so appealing.

Karla said...

Thank you for posting this! We, too, love spaghetti & meatballs but hardly ever make it because it seems like so much work. Great idea.

Daisy said...

Yum!! I might try this method. I'll have to use canned tomatoes or farmers' market tomatoes because mine, though numerous, are still green. Green! Not even a hint of orange.

Anonymous said...

The broiler part is genius.

Anonymous said...

I've been making sauce and meatballs for 20 yrs now. I learned from my mother, and she from Italian friends in Chicago.
Sauce: Saute garlic and onions in olive oil until clear (low heat). Tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian parsley, oregano and other seasonings in a stew pot. Pour it in and add beef neck bones.
Meat balls: cook in the oven for 20 min, then add to the sauce. Let it simmer for no less than 3 hours. The longer the better. The sauce and meatballs are even better after a day of rest in the fridge. (remove the neck bones before serving) Oh, and one last thing. I add just a bit of cumin and cinnamon to the sauce and use fresh herbs if you can.