6. Italian Meatballs

One of the ultimate comfort food. (How many of you remember "Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti day"?) The secret to these melt-in-your mouth meatballs is in the milk-soaked bread instead of breadcrumbs.

Italian meatballs are versatile, easy to make and don't pinch the pocketbook. Make a bunch of different sized meatballs for your freezer and you'll always have a last minute treat to serve your family!


Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbs roughly chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 tbs roughly chopped fresh basil
1 cup milk
4 thick slices firm white bread, crust removed
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 cup ketchup (yes...ketchup!)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make Ahead Preparation:

Heat 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft but still translucent, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let cool.

In a small bowl, pour enough milk over the bread in a bowl to moisten and let it soak while the onions are cooling.

Combine the meats in a large bowl. Add the egg, ketchup and cheese and season generously with salt and pepper.

Use your hands to squeeze the excess milk out of the bread, discarding the milk. Crumble the soaked bread into the meat mixture so that it is about the size of peas. Add in the cooled onion mixture and the chopped parsley and basil.

Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands or with a spoon until just mixed together. Don't overwork or the meatballs will be tough. Shape them into nice looking meatballs, between the size of a golf ball and tennis ball. I always have a lot of meatballs in my freezer, and I make a combination of small, medium and large sized ones. The smaller ones are great for appetizers (see serving suggestions below), the medium ones are a perfect complement to a nice plate of spaghetti, and the larger sized ones make terrific sandwiches.

Heat a 3-count of extra virgin olive oil in the frying pan over medium heat and brown the meatballs on all sides, about 10 minutes. You want a nice brown crust on them without necessarily cooking them through completely.

Remove the meatballs from the frying pan and let cool. Place in ziploc freezer bags and freeze up to 4 weeks.

Last Minute Assembly:

When ready to serve, remove from freezer and allow to defrost. Bake in a 350 oven until cooked and heated through.

No time to defrost them? No problem! Place the frozen meatballs in an oven-safe casserole dish. Top with jarred or homemade marinara sauce. Cover and bake in 350 oven for approximately 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling.

Serving suggestions:

Appetizers: Unexpected company? Not a problem! On toothpicks, place one small meatball along with one cooked tortellini. Serve up with sides of marina and alfredo sauces for dipping. Garnish with some fresh basil or Italian parsley.

Pasta: Bake medium-sized meatballs in sauce. Serve over freshly cooked spaghetti. Top with additional parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Be sure to serve up some fresh Italian or garlic bread and a light salad as well.

Sandwiches: Slice a grinder roll (also called hoagies or subs) almost in half lengthwise, so that the bread is still in one piece. Place 3 to 4 large meatballs in the center. Cover with marinara sauce and slices of mozzerelle. Bake in 350 oven until meatballs are cooked and heated through and cheese is melted.

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