Meatballs are such a comfort and convenient food. True, the making of them may not be that convenient, but after you made them, they can be frozen and they will last you for many meals to come. They can be pan-fried or baked; eaten plain, with pastas, with potatoes, in sandwiches etc... so many choices to choose from!
I'm calling my meatballs "ultimate" (pardon my shamelessness) because this will be my to-go recipe in the future when I make my meatballs. I will do variations in the future by swapping the spices, but this will always be my base recipe.
My meatballs are a mix of beef and pork in the ratio of 1:1, sometimes there may be more beef or more pork depending on how much mince the butcher packed for me. My beef is usually quite lean (I saw the butcher grinding the lean meat in front of me), while the pork tends to be more fatty (you can see the white bits of fat in the mince), and this is a great combination because the fats will keep the meatballs moist and juicy.
I added soaked breadcrumbs for a tender bite, a whooping ½-cup of freshly minced herbs for a herby flavour (fresh herbs pack a lot more flavour than dried ones, I've tried with dill, parsley and will get basil next time), caramelised onion bits for some sweetness and some freshly grated Parmesan. The Parmesan was purely optional as I didn't add them in my first attempt and they still tasted great. When I make them again, I may throw in more Parmesan (but Parmesan are a tad expensive, so I may not, oh well!)
For the spices, I used salt, plenty of black pepper, paprika and ketchup. Again, the spices you use are really up to you. You can just use salt and pepper and they will still taste great I'm sure. For me, I want to make sure I clear my spices quick and fast, so I will add whatever I have on hand, depending on my mood. I'm inclined to try using curry powder in the future, will update the recipe when I do!
Lastly, an egg is added to bind the ingredients together.
For gluten-free meatballs, omit the breadcrumbs and use firm tofu. Drain them well and mash them before adding into the mix. I've also read that flax meal, almond meal or any rice based cereal will make great substitutes.
Many people say egg is not needed in meatballs but since my meatballs are pretty small, I want to make sure they don't fall apart when I cook them (especially when I pan-fry them). A little corn flour can be added in place of egg to bind the mixture together. Test frying a meatball to see if it falls apart and adjust accordingly before making the rest.
Cooking the meatballs
Baking these meatballs are great and easy when I want no-fuss clean-up or I'm using my frying pan for something else. But my favourite method has got to be the sear and bake method. I seared the meatballs in a frying pan until browned on both sides, before popping them in the oven for it to cook while I prepare the other dishes. The sear gives the meatballs a nicer-looking colour and somehow will (magically) elevate the meatballs' flavours, don't ask me why. If you are adding the meatballs into a sauce, I'd suggest a sear in a frying pan before adding them into the sauce to braise.
X and I love these meatballs through and through. I'm gonna use it in an upcoming Mac n' Cheese recipe and we'll see how it goes! I hope you guys give these meatballs a try and let me know what changes you made in yours!
Here are the step-by-step photos and the recipe!
|1) Peel and chop an onion as finely as possible.||2) Heat a frying pan and add in a little oil then add in the chopped onion.|
|3) When the onion has softened, sprinkle in a little sugar.||4) Let the sugar caramelise and the onion has turned a beautiful light brown colour. Turn off the heat and let cool completely.|
|5) Meanwhile, soak the breadcrumbs in some water / milk.||6) And finely mince some herbs (I played cheat and used my new toy!)|
|7) Throw in the onion, breadcrumbs, herbs and cheese into the mince meats.||8) Add in your spices (I'm using salt, black pepper and paprika).|
|9) And some ketchup for fun.||10) And an egg to bind them altogether.|
|11) Wash and dry your hands! Use one hand to hold on to the bowl and the other to mix everything up.||12) Mix, mix, mix! Now, take a small amount of mixture and pan-fry it until cooked. Taste it and adjust the seasoning (add more salt if it's not salty enough, or more pepper or paprika etc.)|
|13) Grab a buddy or a TV and roll the meatballs away and on to a line baking sheet. Once in a while, compare the meatball you are rolling and the first meatball you rolled - you may realise you are rolling the meatballs smaller and smaller or bigger and bigger. Adjust the size accordingly! Freeze the meatballs until firm before cooking.||14) Once they are completely frozen, pop these little babies into a ziploc bag and you can cook them whenevery you want!|
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup water
- 500 grams minced pork
- 500 grams minced beef
- ½ cup minced fresh herbs (you can use a mixture of dill, parsley etc)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Oil (for baking)
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add in the oil and the onion. Sauté until onion has softened and sprinkle the sugar evenly over the onion. Sauté until the onion is browned and lightly caramelised. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
- Place bread crumbs in a bowl and pour in ⅛ cup of water. If the bread crumbs are still dry, add remaining water bit by bit until moisten. Discard unused water. Soak the bread crumbs for 15 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the minced meat, caramelised onion, soaked bread crumbs, herbs, cheese, egg, ketchup, paprika, salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Mix the mixture very well (I used my hand).
*At this point you can scoop a small spoonful of mixture, pan-fry and taste it. Adjust the seasoning and test again until you are satisfied.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop a small spoonful of mixture and roll into a ball, about 1 inch in diameter (check the meatballs once in a while to ensure they are relatively of the same size). Set the meatballs on the lined baking sheet. Freeze the meatballs for at least 1 hour before cooking.
*Meatballs can be made ahead until this point. Freeze meatballs for at least 4 hours. Transfer them into a ziploc bag to store in the freezer.
- Oven-bake: Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Drizzle the meatballs very lightly with oil and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the meatballs and bake for another 10 minutes until the meatballs are browned on both sides and cooked through.
Pan-fry then bake: Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Heat a frying pan until hot and drizzle in a little oil. Add in the meatballs in a single layer and sear both sides until browned. Bake the meatballs for another 10 to 15 minutes until cooked through.
- Serve the meatballs plain, with pastas, with mushroom sauce or simply with ketchup.