This is an old recipe from my mother's repetoire that has always had tremendous success and is one of my most requested dishes at get-togethers. People will be really amazed when they ask you for the recipe. It's best done a day ahead but not crucial that you do so. The meatballs cook right in the sauce, rather than being browned first -- seems to let them stay tender on the outside, rather than forming a little crust.
2 lbs. ground beef
1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 bottle Heinz chili sauce
1 jar Welch's grape jelly
Mix together all the ingredients except the chili sauce and the grape jelly, using just enough of the breadcrumbs to keep everything together. Mix the chili sauce and grape jelly together in a large, deep pot (I use a Dutch oven) over medium heat. While they melt together, roll the tiny meatballs -- they should be just big enough for a single bite. Drop the meatballs into the simmering chili/jelly sauce and let them simmer for about 20 minutes to half an hour, gently stirring them to make sure they all cook evenly.
After 20 minutes, test one for doneness.
Remove the cooked meatballs from the sauce with a slotted spoon. If you're doing this the day before, refrigerate the meatballs and the sauce separately so that, when you're ready to serve them, you can easily lift the fat off the surface of the sauce to discard it and put the sauce and meatballs into a chafing dish. If you're doing it the same day, use a grease separating cup to get rid of the fat.
By the way, the leftover sauce, once the meatballs are all gone, can be used for other dishes. After a pig roast, we pulled the leftover meat off the bone, chopped it up a bit, mixed it into the chili/jelly sauce, and had the best pulled pork sandwiches ever!
I happen to like my mom's so called swedish meatballs in a mushroom/sour cream gravy. Its a simple recipe - like for meat loaf - grind up some onions, carrot, celery, parsley, bread crumbs (wetted with milk or not) in a meat grinder with ground beef. (alternatively if you dont have the grinder can chop veggies until finely cut-not pureed- in the processor or by hand). Knead it all together using your hands hand with an egg or two until throuroughly blended. It should be a cohesive mass, not crumbly. Season with salt and pepper (maybe some cayenne, worcestershire, etc too) to taste, roll into balls a little larger than the size you want (they will shrink while cooking). Brown the balls in butter or other fat of your choice (cook in one layer only) then add some of the famous cream of mushroom soup (or some sauteed mushrooms and cream to the pan to make a gravy. With the vegetables etc. inside and the gravy, it should stay moist, tho simmering the pan all evening seems like a bit much. This is the kind of dish electric skillets are made for, if you have one.
Good luck and have a great party!
My late aunt Anne London (she wrote a great cookbook: The Complete American-Jewish Cookbook way back in the '50s) had a knockout meatball recipe. You mix the meat into meatballs with a bit of grated onion and breadcrumbs, and boil them in a mix of dried prunes, water, salt, sugar, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and a bit of vinegar. As it cools, add gelatine. The appearance and taste can't be beat.