A meatball is ground or minced meat rolled into a small ball, sometimes along with other ingredients, such as bread crumbs, minced onion, eggs, butter and seasoning. Meatballs are cooked by frying, baking, steaming, or braising in sauce. There are many types of meatballs using different types of meats and spices. The term is sometimes extended to meatless versions based on vegetables or fish.
Most meatballs recipes found in Americas or United States are derived from European cuisine influences, notably Italian, Iberian (Portuguese-Spanish), and Nordic (Swedish-Finnish) cuisines. Usually they are served with spaghetti or on pizza, as in spaghetti and meatballs and meatball pizza. Despite its seemingly Italian traits, one will not find a dish called spaghetti and meatballs in Italy. Spaghetti and meatballs is actually American, it is Italian-American cuisine, assimilated from Italian immigrants coming from southern Italy in the early 19th century. Over time, the dishes in both cultures have drifted apart in similarity. In the southern United States, venison or beef is also often mixed with spices and baked into large meatballs that can be served as an entree. Another variation, called “porcupine meatballs” are basic meatballs often with rice in them.
Panade (pronounced: “puh-nod”) is a thick paste of starch and liquid that helps to bind ingredients and trap flavors. It serves both a practical and a textural purpose when incorporated into a meatball. “[Meatballs] were made back in the day to stretch meat,” and is common knowledge. “In Italy for example, there wasn’t a lot of meat – so you flavor that bread with a little cheese, and eggs to make the meat go farther. When you go to a restaurant and [a meatball is] really soft and you can cut through it with a fork, that’s because it has a lot of bread and egg in it.”
For our Tasty Farmer meatball recipe we will make our “panade” with bread soaked in cream and eggs. This process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours, and is worth the extra effort. Meatball-filler substitutes like the all-too-common breadcrumbs will cause serious textural issues, breadcrumbs are dry, and they absorb all the fat and juice and leave the meatball drier and dense. They can be used in a pinch, but for a soft tender meatball the “panade” is so much more desirable.
2 lbs ground pork or beef or chicken or veal (or any combination)
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cups cubed bread, crusts removed, baguette or nice plain white sandwich bread works well
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup of cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Spices: 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1) Sprinkle salt over meat and set aside in fridge to rest.
2) Mix eggs and cream in a bowl. Tear baguette pieces and add, setting aside in fridge to rest until bread has completely absorbed the liquid and the bread is falling apart and mushy, between 20-30 minutes. For an extra-creamy panade, soak bread for 1-2 hours.
3) Preheat a medium saute pan over medium-low heat. Add olive oil. Add onions and garlic and saute until slightly brown and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the spices and cook additional 1-2 minutes, until aromatic. Set the mixture aside to cool.
4) Once bread has absorbed an adequate amount of liquid, with clean hands mix until the bread has disintegrated into the liquid paste (or use a food processor if you prefer).
5) Combine ground meat, panade and onion mixture into a bowl and mix until it is incorporated.
6) Make a tester meatball: Take a tablespoon-sized wad of meat and squash it into a little burger (yes, burger shape is best for the tester!) Cook in a saute pan over medium heat until cooked through, then taste. Add more salt or spices to taste…these minor adjustments are the crucial difference between a good meatball and a great one.
7) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To form meatballs, gently roll a golf ball-sized ball with lightly moistened hands (or use a scoop). Place meatballs in a baking pan side by side. Cook for 20-25 minutes (depending on size), until meatballs are browned and cooked through. Or bake 15-20 mins and add to sauce to finish.
ENJOY your meatballs from TASTY FARMER!!