This Italian meatball recipe from Chris Hall of Local Three incorporates many tricks Italians use to make the perfect meatballs. He soaks the meat mixture overnight in a milk mixture, blends plenty of fresh herbs, salt and spices including ground fennel, and combines various cuts of meat. He also adds very little day old breadcrumbs which allows you to taste the spice and meat.
To create light and juicy meatballs, mix the ingredients together by hand instead of using a spoon. This way the ground cuts of meat are not crushed. You want to see pieces of prosciutto, pork shoulder, pork fat, and ground beef. If you cannot find any pork fat, use more ground pork shoulder.
Since you are using your hands, do all the chopping of the herbs and grinding of the spices first. Use an electric grinder or mortar and pestle to finely grind the fennel seeds so the flavor evenly spreads across the meatball. Whole fennel seeds are too potent.
Let the mixture marinade overnight for best results. In the morning, cook a couple sausage patties to see if you need to add more spice or salt to the mixture. This will allow you to adjust the spice to pair the meatballs with the sauce or dish. Try them in a soup, over spaghetti or as an appetizer.
At the market demo, Chris served these delicious Riverview farms meatballs in a Ribolida sauce which he simmered overnight. The sauce contains celery, carrot, garlic, fennel, parsnip, rutabaga, canalleni beans, tomatoes, herbs, and red wine. Hopefully I can share that recipe with you as well. It is fabulous.
Another recipe from Chris Hall that has been a favorite of many of my readers is the Spring Pea Hummus with marinated vegetables, toasted pint and fresh mint. It is a lot easier to make than it sounds. Guests always want the recipe after they try it at dinner parties or luncheons. It is a good dip to enjoy in the New Year and will help you keep your resolution to eat more veggies and stay healthy!
1) Mix Together the Meat and Seasonings- In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread, pork fat, prosciutto, parsley, salt, oregano, fennel seed, and chili flake and mix with your hands until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
2) Mix Together the Dairy- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, and milk and whisk together breaking up any large curds of the ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the ground meat mixture and mix lightly with your hands until just incorporated being mindful not to overwork as this will make your meatballs tough and dry. The mixture should feel wet and tacky.
3) Shape the Meatballs- Form the mixture into two ounce balls and place on a baking sheet that has been coated lightly with olive oil.
4) Bake- Bake at 400 degrees, rotating once, for 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs have browned.
5) Serve- These meatballs can be served as an appetizer with a hearty marinara sauce, or placed on top of pasta, or tossed in a soup. Grate some parmesan cheese over the top. Enjoy!
Recipe from Chris Hall of Local Three as prepared at the Morningside Market
Photos provided by Tom Brodnax