Let's get this out of the way up front: There's no "right" way to make and cook a meatball. In fact, the meatball process comes with an impressive number of options: Any kind of ground meat is fair game (you can make them meatless, too), the flavors you mix in can come from any country on the planet, and there are at least three prevalent ways to cook them (baking, pan-roasting, or simmering in stock or sauce), each method as legitimate as the next. Plus, more often than not, they're delicious.
So, to celebrate meatballs in all their versatile glory, here are six different ways (more or less) to make them. To start, there's a pretty classic Italian beef meatball recipe with variations that, via simple ingredient substitutions, take them to Spain and Vietnam. (That recipe also outlines the techniques for baking, pan-roasting, simmering, and grilling, so you can take your pick). Then there's a totally vegan version using eggplant (don't knock it 'til you try it), a streamlined take on spaghetti and meatballs that saves you time and effort by skipping the rolling and instead dropping the meatball mixture right into the hot skillet with two spoons, and, for good measure, a really good recipe from David Tamarkin for harissa-spiked lamb meatballs with tomato sauce and yogurt.
I don't exactly know why this feels to me like a good weekend to eat meatballs, but it does. If you feel the same, enjoy them (and if you have a go-to recipe that's a little outside the box, I'd love to hear about it). See you Tuesday.
Here meatballs get three cocktail-party treatments, none of them Swedish. The main recipe — an Italian version, polpette — are made with a load of fresh parmesan and milk-soaked bread. The second adds almonds for a tapas-style meatball. The third is Vietnamese influenced, with rice and pork. All three can be mixed and rolled in advance, then simmered, baked, pan-roasted, or grilled, and take just minutes to cook. Other meat you can use: ground pork, lamb, veal, turkey, chicken, or duck (or a combination).
The more I play around with vegetable-based meatballs, the more I like them; certainly they’re not the same as meat meatballs, but the different textures and flavors are terrific. To round out the meal, serve these over pasta, rice, salad, or steamed greens with a squeeze of lemon.
The most time-consuming part of making meatballs is rolling them. The solution? Don’t. Just use two spoons to drop little mounds of the mixture into the hot skillet. (Skipping the rolling also prevents you from overworking the meatballs until they get tough.) Leave them alone to brown beautifully on the bottom while you start building the tomato sauce around them.
These are kofte-style meatballs: there’s no bread or ricotta added to keep them juicy. For that, you need to depend on the onion. So really mince it—you want to get it as small as you possibly can.