Friday 22 February 2013

The perfect meatball

It was the boy who began the whole thing.

Sometimes I like to outsource that one bane of my existence, the dreaded Meal Planning. I mean, really! Three meals a day, seven days a week, month after month after month! I don't care what we eat, just please please please make me stop having to decide.

Anyway. Outsourcing. So I make everyone else choose a meal each week because it cuts the number of meal-based decisions I have to make nearly in half, which is almost enough to keep my sanity intact. And one week, the boy requested spaghetti and meatballs.

I've tried the occasional meatball recipe. Some of them have been passable. Many of them haven't even turned out. ("Oh, you wanted us to stay round? Yeah well TOO BAD.") In short, they have never been part of our regular meal rotation, so it was a bit of an unexpected request. Still, a meal plan is a meal plan and I wrote it down on the week's menu.

Sure, I didn't have to decide what to eat for that one particular meal. I did, however, have to find a decent meatball recipe. I browsed through my cookbooks. I studied all the top ones at All Recipes. I took pieces of this one and bits of that one and somehow it all morphed into something that hey, actually wasn't half bad!

Later that week, the meatballs came up in a discussion with a friend. I don't know how, just one of those things, you get together with your friends and end up discussing what you're all making for dinner that night. More meal ideas, right? So anyway, meatball discussion. My friend offers me some tips she got from her friend. I make mental notes, determined to improve on my "not half bad" meatballs.

The boy requests the same meal next week. Perfect. I can try out these new tips. I vaguely recall something about diced bread and mixing it by hand, but I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting something.

So I text my friend and then turned to my husband.

"I just asked my vegetarian friend about making meatballs. Does that make me a terrible person?"

"Yes. Yes it does."


So there you have it. I'm a terrible person. My sincere apologies to any vegetarians reading this. (Which, actually, probably not a whole lot. This is a post about meatballs, after all.)

Said vegetarian friend texts me back with the tips: Bread (crust removed), eggs, Parmesan, seasoning. Mix, shape, cook in skillet.

I add the bread to my franken-recipe, tweak this, adjust that. These ones actually surpass the stage of "not bad" and enter firmly into Quite Good territory.

Still, I'm not looking for Quite Good. I'm looking for Downright Amazing. Fortunately, the boy has decided that spaghetti and meatballs are his new favourite meal, so I have a lot of opportunities to improve on my recipe. Does it really make a noticeable difference if the crusts are removed? What amounts of Parmesan and milk are ideal? What combination of spices works best? With onions or without? Skillet or oven?

Until finally one night, it happens: Downright Amazing.

These truly are my perfect meatball. Perfect texture. Perfect combination of spices. Perfect ability to maintain their shape without being tough or hard. Perfect taste. Just all-around perfect.

Double the batch and bake half, freeze half. Toss them with your favourite pasta sauce and serve over spaghetti. Use them in place of sausage in Tortellini Sausage Soup. Or simply eat them as is - as soon as these babies come out of the oven, I start popping them like candy. The kids can find their own meal. The meatballs are mine. My preciousessssss.

Perfect Meatballs

1 lb ground beef
1 slice bread, cubed
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 onion, diced
1 egg
1 Tbsp parsley
2 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

1. Mix all ingredients by hand in a bowl.
2. Shape into balls the size of walnuts.
3. Bake in oven on parchment-lined baking sheet at 375F for 20-25 minutes.

Yield: Approx. 40 meatballs


  1. If you want to save yourself a step, drop the bread and use panko crumbs. Yay for easy happy meals!

  2. Ha! One meatball to rule them all:)