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Wednesday 18 March 2015

Decadently moist gigantic meatballs with tomato sauce recipe!

On top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese....

Every now and then, I get a craving for a down to earth, savory, super moist and flavor packed meatball.  The fiancé loves this cuz he will eat any type of meatball - Asian style beef, fish or cuttlefish balls, Lebanese mini football like Kebbeh, Indian curried koftas, Greek kefteds, slowcooker meatballs and of course, the classic Italian meatballs that crown a plate of spaghetti.  L had made some wickedly tasty Kebbeh at our last get together, so I was leaning more towards the Italian style ones, smothered in tomato sauce.  And since the fiancé believes size matters when it comes to meat balls *insert any number of crude jokes here*, I've been working on a number of variations to get to that perfect moist flavorful meatball for a while.. so here's the latest and greatest giant 1/4 pound meatball recipe you can top your spaghetti with :D
Type of ground meat
Since its a traditional Italian meatball we're looking for, you can use
-100% extra lean ground beef: results in a slightly firmer meatball since its low in fat and water content
-100% lean ground beef: my go to as it has a good balance of lean meat and a bit of fat to lend it flavor and moisture
-100% regular ground beef: not ideal as you'll have a lot of shrinkage as it cooks and you'll need to drain off a lot of water and grease... water is always added to ground beef, sorry folks!
-Combination of beef and lamb: only if you plan not to serve to kids -  they pick up on the gamey flavor of lamb like that!
-75% ground turkey and 25% ground pork: 100% turkey is too dry on its own, pork is too bland on its own. Win-win!
-ground chicken: I find it a it too dry and bland to work with, I like turkey as its leaner and packs more flavor

How to keep the meatballs from falling apart!
An addition of an egg helps bind all the ingredients together. I try not to use any flour (my celiac friends wouldn't like that!), but put in extra meat or less liquid instead. And don't skimp on the Parmesan cheese... as it cooks, it'll help bind the meat together. When searing, roll the meatball with a spoon and don't overcrowd the pan (although I always tend to hahaha!) so they have a less chance to smashing each other up.. rolling with a pair of chopsticks didn't work out all that well.

How to keep them balls moist!
You can use seasoned bread crumbs, diced up fresh rolls/bread, but lately, I've been sneaking in more fibre by using quick oats. They have to soak for a while in the marinade so they rehydrate (otherwise you get hard bits of uncooked oatmeal in them meatballs), and make sure you use quick oats used to make oatmeal. Don't use the thick steel-cut oats... the quick oats are flattened and cut super thin (unlike regular or steel cut oats) to cook quick and disappear into the meatball as it cooks!  And feel free to add in some wine for flavor and moisture.

How to cook them meatballs
Over the years, I've tried baking, pan sear and baking, cooking in the pan, baking and then cooking in sauce, baking in sauce, but the best method IMO, is: sear the meatballs and then finish cooking the meatballs by simmering them in tomato sauce.  This way they retain moisture, pick up yummy flavor from the sear and get super moist since they don't have a chance to dry out while cooking!  The baking in sauce was too inconsistent and sometimes the meatballs got too much moisture and just plain old fell apart.

The tomato sauce
If you have time, go with a scratch tomato sauce, since you're spending time making meatballs from scratch. If not, season the bottled ready made stuff as I find the commercial sauces are always super acidic and sometimes so tangy and salty, they need a hit of sugar and butter to help balance things out.

Decadently moist giant meatballs with tomato sauce recipe! Makes 8 large meatballs or 4 servings

1/2 cup quick oatmeal, plain
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons red wine
1 teaspoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
2 tablespoons light soya sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon granulated garlic or 1 finely grated clove of garlic 
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1 egg
2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 cup Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon oil
4 cups tomato sauce
How to
1) In a large mixing bowl, combine everything but the ground beef, Parmesan, oil and tomato sauce. Let sit for 10-15 minutes so the oatmeal has a chance to rehydrate.
2) Mix in ground beef and Parmesan. Form into 8 meatballs, about the size of baseballs.
3) Heat up a large deep non-stick frying pan on medium low and add in oil. Place in meatballs, being careful not to crowd them. Sear gently, roll the meatballs around so they sear more of less evenly - this will take a few minutes.
4) Once all meatballs are seared, dump in tomato sauce, bring to a simmer and cook, rolling the meatballs occasionally for another 10 minutes. Season the sauce to taste and serve with your favorite pasta.

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