Close your eyes and imagine a meal of meatballs. Their aroma calls from the kitchen, inviting all who crave culinary and community comfort. But are these meatballs served alongside spaghetti or in a broth-base soup? Are they on a sub sandwich covered in marinara and cheese or in a slow cooker with grape jelly and BBQ sauce to be eaten with toothpicks? Though most frequently associated with Italian cuisine, the meatball has actually taken on a number of variations based on regional tastes.
Each region of the globe puts its own flavorful stamp on meatballs. The famed cookbook The Joy of Cooking shares nine different meatball recipes, each with its own distinctive flavor combination based on origin. From Germany, sauerkraut meatballs use pickled cabbage to tenderize the meat. Swedish meatballs feature rich gravy, while Chinese meatballs are served in a sweet and sour sauce. Comfort and a savory meal are as consistent in these meatballs as their tender texture and rich flavor, but the distinct sauce in which they are cooked pins them to a particular region.
The recipe provided shares a standard meatball recipe, a base from which personal tastes and inspiration can rise. The combination of veal, pork, and beef adds richness that a single type of meat lacks. The step of soaking bread in milk provides moisture for the meatballs. In this recipe, the sourdough bread is toasted to add a deep, nutty flavor; however, substituting a different type of bread and eliminating the toasting would subtly change the flavor for personal preference.
Parsley and paprika spice these meatballs with an agreeable flavor profile that pairs with most sauces. If other flavors are preferred, spices can easily be swapped out. The red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce act much like the pickled cabbage in The Joy of Cooking’s German meatballs, serving as a tenderizing agent for the meat. Knowing and understanding the ingredients’ roles enables home cooks to experiment with the recipe. Add a different culinary acid in place of the vinegar to bring out varied flavors, for example. Experimentation results in meatballs paired with just the right sauce to become a unique dish that family and friends will relish.
1/3 pound ground veal
1/3 pound ground beef
1/3 pound ground pork
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon parsley
2 slices of sourdough bread
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cheese
1/4 cup onion, minced
6 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Salt meat and mix with hands. Let sit for 30 minutes. Toast bread until golden. Place bread in a bowl, and pour milk over it. Make sure the bread is saturated. After 30 minutes, mix paprika, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, egg, cheese, onion, and garlic into the meat. Use a blender to break down the milk saturated bread until it is a consistent texture. Mix bread and milk mixture into the meat. Knead until consistent, but do not over mix. Roll into 2-inch balls and refrigerate.
Fill a skillet with 2 inches of oil. Heat to 350 degrees F on the stove. Place balls into skillet 1 inch apart. Depending on the size of the skillet, this may need to be done in batches. Place balls in the oil and cook for 2 minutes per side. In a separate skillet, heat preferred sauce over medium low heat until simmering. Add meatballs to the sauce and cook for 10 more minutes. Serve warm.