Basic cooking tips if you’re making up your own recipe:
- Choose your meat: a mix of ground beef and ground veal (Meatball Mix) makes the best meatballs — light, fluffy, not too heavy. Ground Lamb also adds a nice flavor and richness, and is great to mix with ground beef.
- Take care with lean meats: If you’re using lean meats like Lean Ground Beef, Ground Chicken or Ground Turkey, make sure your recipe includes elements with both moisture and flavor (fat has both). See suggestions below for replacing milk-soaked breadcrumbs.
- Pick your flavor profile: take your meatballs in any number of directions with some judicious seasonings — just don’t use them all at once. Great options to try (thanks to many friends who sent in these suggestions!): cumin & za’atar; smoked paprika; cinnamon and/or allspice; all the alliums — onion powder, garlic powder, onion flakes; salsa; sultanas (golden raisins) and capers; fresh herbs like parsley, chives or mint.
- Balance sweet and sour: Add some tang in the sauce (try apple cider vinegar, cranberries, pomegranate molasses) or the meatballs themselves (try mustard or rice wine vinegar) and some sweetness (try grape jelly, cranberry sauce, tomato sauce, date syrup)
- Handle lightly: combine ingredients gently, and form meatballs assertively but not aggressively. You want balls that are about 1-1.5″ before cooked (they will shrink during cooking)
- Optional first step: sauté. This builds flavor and crust, and is great if you’ll be serving meatballs on their own (for an appetizer) or ladled into a soup. Skip this step if you’re going to simmer them in a tomato sauce.
- If simmering on the stovetop, keep it to one layer. You risk the meatballs falling apart if they are stacked. If using an Instant Pot, it’s okay to layer them. 10 minutes on high pressure is plenty — any more and your meatballs will be dry.
Suggestions for adapting non-kosher recipes:
- Meat substitutes: Ground Rose Veal or Meatball Mix are great substitutes for ground pork. Or go all beef — the result will just be a little more dense.
- What about those milky breadcrumbs? You’ll need to replace the moisture, fat and the sugars in the milk which caramelize during cooking to add flavor. Here are a few ways you can accomplish this:
- Soak breadcrumbs in rich nut milks like cashew or hemp milk. For a lighter milk like soy or almond, simmer it to reduce it and thicken it slightly before adding
- Add 1/4 cup warm water per pound of meat, which softens the meat
- Add pureed caramelized onions
- Add beef broth and extra shmaltz (duck or chicken), or any leftover gravy or pan drippings from another dish
- And the cheese? Skip the grated cheese and add a little more moisture, if necessary, along with some umami-rich ingredients like miso, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, porcini powder, caramelized onions, fish-free Worchestershire sauce, harissa paste, or duxelles (don’t mind the fancy name: it’s just a cooked preparation of finely diced mushrooms, onions, shallots, garlic, and parsley. It’s easy to make in a large batch and then freeze in small pouches for use as needed. A quarter cup or half cup in a pound of meatball mix should suffice.)
- To serve: Sprinkle with nutritional yeast or a gremolita of fresh herbs and lemon zest (you won’t miss the Parm)