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How do you cook your meatballs?

Do you cook your meatballs in the sauce or fry and add them to the sauce? My daughter wanted me to make spagetti and meatballs for dinner. I think I like them best if they are cooked in the sauce but thought I'd hear from others about their techniques.

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  1. I haven't made them too many times, but when I have, I have seared them then let them cook a little, then put them in the sauce to finish.

    1. I roast meatballs in the oven, turning them a couple of times. I have broiled them too.

      I like the browning effect.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Alan408

        I haven't oven-cooked them in a while. Thanks for the reminder.

      2. VERY ITALIAN
        I grew up in an Italian home, and had lots of aunts and cousins, and Grandma too. Never saw meatballs done anyway but fried first in olive oil, and placed in simmering tomato sauce.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JOJOGIRL

          I'll bet that gives them a great texture on the outside, and in.

        2. my mother always fried them and added them to the sauce afterwards. When my husband and I were dating I went and had dinner w/ his family and saw his mother rolling balls of beef, sprinkling them w/ Lawry's seasoning and then plopping them into a pot of bottled sauce. I nearly fell over and I was certain my Italian mother was rolling in her grave! Nowadays, however, I cook them in the oven and they are just as good as fried in oil. I then add them to my sauce!

          1. My mom was Italian too and never fried her meatballs first, she just cooked them in the sauce.

            2 Replies
              1. re: LARaven

                Yeah well there's nothing Italian about Lowry's seasoning salt and a pot of Ragu sauce (shiver). The thought still makes me cringe... I couldn't eat them

                Side note: There is a wonderful Sicillian meatball recipe on Epicurious. It uses italian sausage, currants & pine nuts in addition to the usual ingredients. They are baked in the oven and then added to your sauce (gravy). Soooooo good!!!!

              2. I cook meatballs in the oven. About 25 minutes at 350. Then I either mix them into the sauce or spoon sauce over them, depending on my mood.

                1. I pan fry them, then remove them and use the same pan to make a simple sauce, which takes advantage of the fond, then return the meatballs to heat through.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cocktailhour

                    I do the same as revsharkie, about 25 minutes in the oven at 350* they come out cooked
                    all the way through and then place in the sauce simmering for about 15 minutes. thats
                    it. comes out great.

                    1. re: cocktailhour

                      That's my technique. The flavor really gets enhanced with the fond.

                      1. re: jfood

                        No need to use extra virgin when frying.

                        1. re: KTinNYC

                          understood, but it's basically the only oil jfood has in the house for some reason. There's a little bottle of wesson canola in the back of the pantry but it's a hassle getting to it. he buys it at costco, has a cruet of it within easy reach and it's no thinking. heck, jfood cooks little jfood's egg-white omelette in evoo every morning. go figure.

                      2. drop raw in hot sauce

                        ground beef, 1 egg, seasoned crumbs, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, fresh parsley, romano.

                        1. I bake them in the oven for 25 minutes @ 400. The question also is,...how do u make them. I use 2/3 ground chuck and 1/3 ground pork. I season with basil and lots of oregano. I thow in some seasoned breadcrumbs,egg, and a bi tof milk. s&p to taste yummo and ez

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hipchick47

                            I never use oregano or basil...the secret ingredient is parmesan

                            beef/pork/veal, grated or super fine chopped onion, parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, unseasoned dried bread crumbs or fresh breadcrumbs, just one egg and milk if too dry

                          2. Ground pork, veal and beef mixed with bread crumbs and something green like chopped parsley formed and fried in olive oil until browned all over. Remove meatballs and make a peanut-butter colored roux with the leftover grease and then add chopped bell pepper, celery and onion and stir adding salt and pepper. Add cold liquid (beer) to roux-vegetable mixture and bring to boil. Reduce and add fresh tomatoes or tomato paste and a mixture of beef and chicken broth. Simmer for one hour with bay leaf and the browned meatballs reintroduced.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Chinon00

                              This sounds really good. I am going to try this next time I'm craving meatballs. Usually I just do the standard Italian red sauce etc.

                            2. me, my grandmother and my great grandmother all fry first..you just gotta have the crispy bits for texture and taste

                              I prefer veg oil over olive - it fries cleaner for me

                              you MUST eat at least 2 as a test before they go into the gravy

                              make sure to skim and you're good to go!

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: chef4hire

                                chef4hire, you are absolutely correct on MUST "testing"! ;-)
                                i do the same with my "porcupine meatballs" (have rice and green pepper) with sauerkraut!
                                maybe test more...i mean, they have to be perfect for the guests, right?

                                oh, and while this is not spaghetti, i fry the meatballs lightly (NO crust, my mom INSISTS) to a light brown, then place on top of the kraut in the pot, tuck them down in the kraut/liquid (so rice cooks), pour a can of campbell's tomato soup on top, then a can of water. cover and simmer for an hour. a family crowd-pleaser. traditionally served with boiled potatoes and mayo on the side (for the potatoes).

                                my BIL always makes a to-do about the potatoes with mayo (which i love). it is part of the deal, but we don't know the origin of the potatoes/mayo deal. EVERYONE eats the meatballs. most eat the kraut. freezes up well -- that is, IF there are leftovers! (I ate such leftovers for three days after Hurricane Charley knocked out our power in N. Ft. Myers, FL back in 2004.)

                                http://www.billysrentals.com/gallery/...

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  I always fried or roasted my meatballs before putting into gravy. I happened to see Michael Chiarello about 6 months ago doing meatballs and he did them in a deep skillent on top of stove...... but.... he put about 1/2 - 1 inch water in the pan first and covered them... then uncoverd for a bit... then put in gravy. He says the water steams and keeps them moist and tender... I tried it and he was darn right. Excellent texture.

                                    1. re: Buddernut

                                      I saw Michael Chiarello's meatball show on TV as well and was surprised by the steaming method... but I too tried it and they turned out really well... the texture was really smooth inside, dont you think? I think I am going to stick with pan frying the outside first before cooking them in sauce... I do like the more rustic flavor and texture it provides.

                                  1. re: chef4hire

                                    The meatballs eaten just after frying are the tastiest, IMO. I consider this my private little treat for spending 4 hrs making gravy. Here's my question though: Am I the only one who takes a piece of bread and sops up a little of the cooking schmaltz left in the meatball pan? This is also a private little treat.

                                  2. Put me down for baking the meatballs then finishing them in the sauce. Not only do I want my meatballs to taste good, but I want them to be soft, really soft. I bake them on my broiler pan so the grease drains away from them. Recipe here;
                                    http://houndstoothgourmet.com/2007/09...

                                    ps...I also taste the meatball mix by frying up a little patty before I roll the meatballs. It's a good way to check for seasoning before it's too late.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: monavano

                                      Those look good. I'll have to give that a try. Thanks!

                                    2. I prefer to fry them to get a nice crust and let them finish in the sauce.
                                      Sometimes I microwave them for a few minutes and then finish in the sauce.
                                      Never tried baking them, but maybe next time I will just to see how they go.

                                      1. I just watched the Bobby Flay Throwdown episode on meatballs, and the chef featured used many eggs in his recipe and said it made them fluffier, less dense, and ul Itimately more pleasing. Has anyone tried this, and found it to be true? Also, does anyone roll their meatballs in breadcrumbs before frying/baking/microwaving (what? I don't think I have ever had a microwaved meatball, is it good?)

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: mtleahy

                                          How many eggs? I use 1 or 2 to bind the mixture, but never more than that. To keep the meatballs light and not dense, I use fresh bread crumbs and milk (sometimes water to) to keep the mixture moist. I try not to overwork the meat and roll very lightly. My meatballs are so moist when I roll them, they actually collapse just a tad.

                                          www.houndstoothgourmet.com

                                          1. re: monavano

                                            Yeah, I saw that episode too. The guy used 4 eggs per pound! Very curious to see if anyone's tried this method.

                                            1. re: MeowMixx

                                              My mother was born in Conn. of Italian parents and she made the best damn meatballs -- mine are almost as good. She told me her secret was lots of eggs. I use about 10 eggs for 3lbs of the best ground chuck I can find. I put in chopped fresh basil, freshly grated good parmesan, dense white dry out bread, crust removed, water into bread, squeeze out and shred into meat mixture. S & P. Lots of fresh, finely chopped garlic. She always put the bowl in fridge with a dish towel thrown on top -- for a couple of hours or so. I think this is important. Then, roll into golf ball size balls and I fry in 2 large teflon pans at a time in canola oil (oilive oil will spatter too much). I keep turning until well browned and when I remove them, sprinkle with salt. Great as is and also great simmer an hour or so in San Marsano tomato sauce that I cook on low for hours. These meatballs are not hard and I never get one I like in restaurants. When you walk into the house and smell this, you want to faint. The meat: I get it from the best butcher in town and cook it the same day I buy it, don't like frozen raw meat.

                                              1. re: walker

                                                I think you're the only other person I've ever seen that uses as many eggs as I do. My family is from Italy and that's how my mom still makes them. They're still the best I've had and I've had them every which way.

                                                1. re: walker

                                                  I no longer use canola oil .. sometimes there's a fishy smell with canola. I now use grapeseed oil .. sometimes mixed with a bit of olive oil.

                                                  1. re: walker

                                                    i like grapeseed oil, too. trader joe's did have it for a decent price. lately i'm using crisco oil -- a vegetable oil blend. i agree canola is stinky.

                                              2. re: monavano

                                                Sounds like mini meatloaf balls. Is it?

                                              3. re: mtleahy

                                                He's right. I make them them with about 8 eggs if I'm using a lb. of meat. I usually use two to three pounds though and I use a lot of eggs. I've had them with 2 eggs and honestly, they taste flavorless and are usually not very moist. I don't want to depend on the sauce to make them moist, I want to be able to eat them after frying if I choose and have a tender, moist meatball.

                                                1. re: mtleahy

                                                  I tried the 3-4 eggs per lb of meat - FAIL. The meatballs had no texture and fell apart in your mount - in a bad way!

                                                  1. re: pegasis0066

                                                    I use about 10 eggs to 3 lbs. good quality ground beef (chuck). Did you put enough bread? (Or, bread crumbs?)

                                                2. I fry mine too, but would like to know how you all keep yours round/get them to keep their shape? I wonder if I baked them if they'd stay round? I find even if I frequently "turn" them, when they go in they are soft enough that they develop a flatness on one side, and then the end result is usually more like some weird cube than round, with different flat sides.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                    I don't turn mine. Yeah, they get a little flat on one side, but not enough to bother me any, really. I wonder if baking them on a broiler pan, set down in the grooves on the pan, might help keep them round. Or maybe it'd make them develop an even weirder shape...

                                                    1. re: revsharkie

                                                      As I mentioned above, I bake mine on a broiler rack (with non stick spray) to allow grease to drip. They remain nice and round.

                                                  2. This thread has been on the boards before but it's always interesting, especially to people who love meatballs. I grew up in an Italian-American household where my Naples-born nona did all of the cooking. She always put the meatballs right in the sauce and left them on a low flame for most of the afternoon. I've tried frying them and roasting them but I just like the way the meatballs and the sauce taste when they cook in the sauce itself. One thing I do that my grandma never did was occasionally skim some of the fat off the top of the sauce.

                                                    9 Replies
                                                    1. re: southernitalian

                                                      I think that's how Rocco's mama makes them too, IIRC ;-) Do they come out soft?(as you can see I'm fanatic about soft meatballs)

                                                      www.houndstoothgourmet.com

                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                        I like them soft too. I don't care for that crunchy shell that comes from frying.

                                                        1. re: southernitalian

                                                          The first thing my husband comments on is the texture, then the taste!

                                                      2. re: southernitalian

                                                        Hello, I would kill for your Nona’s recipe. I used to help my mother make her meatballs once a month every Sunday. You are absolutely right my mother r never fries here meatballs she put them in the sauce along with pork, country style ribs they of course were fried browned in olive oil with a little salt & pepper. My mother and father are Italian- gods bless them both. I sure do miss them. It’s been 32 years sense my mothers passing.
                                                        As I said I would kill for your Nona’s recipe, WHY would you believe I have forgotten mother and grand mothers as recipe? Well not entirely I use ground beef, pork and some times veal. One egg bread crumbs fresh parsley salt & pepper, fresh garlic and parmesan cheese .the problem is that there not tender and don’t taste the same. When the ingredients where right you could just set your fork on top of the meatball and it would split in half. Very tender!! I’m 61 years young and I guess the memory is just not as good as it once was. Any way any help in this matter would be appreciated. My email address is

                                                        thames59300e@yahoo.com

                                                        Thank you,

                                                        Bill

                                                        1. re: Mr Bill

                                                          Hey Mr. Bill. Robin here from NYC.... I grew up in Brooklyn and there are a ton of great recipes for meatballs.. RIght now as i am writing this i always do the RAOS MEATBALL recipes online. Have youever heard of Raos? Its one of the BEST NY Italian hangout restaurants...... I would NER broil my meatballs but ONLY FRY.. Oy!!! I also add fresh parsley, fresh basil to the mixture and to the sauce. I add also a pound of sweet sausages... ALOT OF fresh pecorino to the mixture.... Google RAOS meaball recipes and boom you got it.. Good luck. Have to go back to my pot!!! NO my meatballs!!!!

                                                          1. re: mollyblossom

                                                            molly. i have been making a modified rao's recipe for years, love them (i have about 30 in the freezer). the change i made was to bake them first. with all the water mixed in the meat they steam and plump from the inside and they have a great texture. then a quick fry for the crisping of the outside. goes great with some homemade pasta and rao's sauce (10 pint bottles i canned the basement)

                                                            btw - the water addition works great in hamburgers as well, just not as much

                                                            1. re: mollyblossom

                                                              Hey Robin, I will give RAOS meatball recipe a try this weekend. I have never had a good meatball from a restaurant. We shall see!!
                                                              Bill

                                                          2. re: southernitalian

                                                            Same at our house - we place them raw into the sauce and simmer every so slightly, almost akin to poaching. Incredibly soft and tender. The flavour really permeates the meatballs that way as well.

                                                          3. I used to pan-fry, but now I just cook in the sauce after first microwaving the meatballs lightly just to give them a little surface firmness (not cooking them through) so that they do not fall apart in the sauce.

                                                            1. I ended up cooking the meatballs just in the sauce. Kids loved them and took leftovers to school. I like how the fat from the meatball flavors the sauce and how they should stay moist. However these were not a moist as I would have liked. I cheated by buying meatloaf mix at the new Whole Foods near where I live. Next time, I'll go back to making my own and cooking them in the sauce. Loved hearing how everyone makes their meat balls.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Cheesy Oysters

                                                                So glad the kids loved them. Can you tell we're passionate about meatballs? ;-)

                                                              2. I love this recipe for Chipotle Meatballs by Rick Bayless. I've made it a number of times. Avoid ground turkey breast as a substitute it turns out too dry.

                                                                http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives...

                                                                1. Definitely in the sauce! That way they soak up the flavor and boil instead of fry. I love sweet and sour meatballs.

                                                                  1. Thanks for all your tips. The one thing that I did learn from many of you is not to use bread crumbs--use fresh bread soaked in milk instead.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. Thanks to all who suggested cooking it in the sauce. I did it yesterday and they turned out great. Used extra egg, soaked the bread in milk as I usually do (note, make sure the bread doesn't have HFCS because it doesn't dissolve like regular bread does). I have a question, though--how do you stir the sauce as they're cooking? When I tried, the meatballs started breaking. I stopped trying and let it go but the bottom burned.

                                                                      1. I bake them in the oven, just roll the meat, put on a silpat on a cookie sheet and bake at 375. Not only is it healthier (you will freak out at all the fat that is left in the cookie sheet) but they cook perfectly all over.

                                                                        1. I don't mean to sound dumb but isn't there something unsafe about putting raw meat into your sauce? I suppose if you cooked them for a really long time, but something skeeves me about putting raw meat into the sauce.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                            As long as it gets up to a safe temperature there's nothing to be concerned about. Usually you simmer the sauce all afternoon so they have plenty of time to cook through completely.

                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                              if the meat cooks all the way through to a safe temperature than it is probably safe to assume that the environment it cooked in has also reached the same safe temperature

                                                                            2. Favorite meat (beef or beef/pork combo) gently mixed with favorite seasonings (S+P, fresh garlic, Parmesan, oregano, garlic and onion powder, and herb bread crumbs). Form balls and place on baking rack over a baking pan with a little water (stops smoking) and blast in a 500F oven for 20 minutes (turning once). Then poach in tomato sauce for 2 hours. Tender, moist and amazing.

                                                                              1. That's very close to how I make mine. I make them really moist with a panade--I don't squeeze the bread crumbs out. Lots of cheese!

                                                                                1. DF used to use an old coffee measure ( the kind w/ the flat bottom ). Scoop of meat leveled off then browned in a non-stick. After browning, they went into the oven to finish. After that they were put in sauce or frozen for next use. Always phenomenal.

                                                                                  1. Hi Cheesy Oysters!! Robin here from NYC. I got the best recipe from Rao's Italian Restaurant... Google meatballs recipe. REALLY great Italian balls!!!! I get them nice and crispy when i fry too, Then i put them in my home made sauce for about four hours.. I also added about 4-6 fryed sweet sausages.... I add some nice basil to the sauce too. Enjoy. Google Rao's meatball recipe and you will get it... ITs a big hit on t his site!! Hey i am originally from Brooklyn and know my meatballs!!!

                                                                                    1. We always cooks our meatballs in the oven. We put the sauce in a slow cooker and let it simmer for an hour or more. The longer you simmer it, the more flavorful it is. After the meatballs get out of the oven, we let them cool for just a few minutes and then dunk them into the slow cooker and sauce. We then we let it sit in the sauce with the slow cooker on for 30 minutes or longer. It gets the flavor of being cooked with the sauce and is nice and brown. It is healthier than frying, definatly.

                                                                                      I also have a tip. Put a low amount of bread. They are MEATballs not BREADballs. I hate when restraunts go cheap :P

                                                                                      1. I'm not Italian nor of Italian descent ... so maybe I'm not making "real" meatballs! ;-)

                                                                                        I've tried baking them, but that sometimes makes them tougher than I like. And I'm not crazy about spaghetti sauce (blasphemy!)... so I don't like the sauce-cooked method. I'm intrigued by the pan-fried version, but I like round meatballs, so I'm not sure about that, either.

                                                                                        What I've always done is to simmer them in very strong homemade chicken stock. When they're done, they float. They come out soft and moist and the broth gives them a nice flavor. I wonder if I'm doing it "wrong", since NOBODY here has mentioned anything about "boiling" meatballs (that's not really what I'm doing, just simmering 'til they float) ? But I like 'em like that.

                                                                                        ~vicki~

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: exotec

                                                                                          It's not "wrong"--it's how Italian wedding soup is often made.

                                                                                        2. As a born and bred Italian I don't think I've ever seen an Italian cook make meatballs any other way then searing in olive oil and dropping into the pot of sauce to cook further. It's the only way I would ever make them.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: The Drama Queen

                                                                                            Where in Italy were you born? Maybe that makes a difference.

                                                                                          2. I bake and braise. Never going to change!

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                                                              Same here.

                                                                                              Usually, I make a ton of them at the time and freeze them. Then I'll thaw and finish a few of them in the sauce before dinner.

                                                                                              It's a single dad's way of making sure we get to eat every day.

                                                                                              ;-)

                                                                                            2. My great grandmother was from Benevento, Italy and made meatballs that would melt in your mouth. Unfortunately, she never taught anyone in our family how to make them (I was only 15 when she passed away), and no one bothered to learn!

                                                                                              So my "Quest for the Holy Grail" in my adult life has been to try to duplicate her meatballs, and I have come very close. Over the years, I have tinkered with many different methods, and here are some of my methods:

                                                                                              1. I always cook the meatballs raw in the sauce. Baking them in the oven (even for short periods) gave them a rubbery texture. Pan frying made them oily and would not hold together. The trick to keep them from falling apart is to make sure the sauce is hot enough to "seal" the outsides relatively quickly, and apply very little pressure while stirring.

                                                                                              2. I very briefly saute my onions and garlic before putting them in my meatball "batter." Nothing worse than biting into a crunchy onion, and it seems to "mellow" the potentially strong onion and garlic taste.

                                                                                              3. I heat the inside of the italian bread with milk in a pan and "mash" it until it forms a loose paste-like texture. I also add bread crumbs, as this helps the meatballs retain moisture.

                                                                                              4. Generous amounts of pecorino romano cheese!!!!

                                                                                              5. I ALWAYS make the "batter" the night before and place in a gallon ziploc bag and refrigerate overnight; allows all the ingredients to "meld together."

                                                                                              I must be on the right track, as my wife who HATED meatballs before she met me LOVES them, and my oldest son won't eat meatballs anywhere else! I guess I've created "Meatball Snobs!" :0)

                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: pezzuto

                                                                                                Pezzuto:

                                                                                                Would you share your ingredients recipe please?

                                                                                                1. re: pezzuto

                                                                                                  Sounds very very good. Please share your complete recipe !

                                                                                                  1. re: pezzuto

                                                                                                    Pezzutto, we’re practically related! My grandparents are from Casalduni, which is the next town over (there’s about 1,000 people total in Casalduni)

                                                                                                    My grandmom always fried her meatballs, but she fried everything that was going into a pot of sauce or ‘gravy’ if you will

                                                                                                    For the sauce… in a big, big pot, put enough olive oil to coat the bottm and one onion which has been grated.
                                                                                                    Cook it on low until the onion is fully softened. (grated because then it would dissolve into the sauce, my grandfather didn’t like pieces of onion in sauce)
                                                                                                    Add two cans of tomato puree and two cans of crushed tomatoes (Tuttorosso if you run out of your own jarred tomatoes) and three or four pieces of basil, torn up into pieces.

                                                                                                    In a very large heavy bottom frying pan, pour about ¼” olive oil and heat it up, add 1 or so lbs “country ribs” (pork) which have been liberally salted.
                                                                                                    Brown the country ribs VERY well on all sides and drop into the tomato sauce
                                                                                                    Let this cook with just the country ribs for at least 30 minutes or more if you have the time… it’s pork and it needs to cook in the sauce to get tender.

                                                                                                    Don’t throw away the grease from the pan, just set it aside.

                                                                                                    After at least 30 has passed, reheat the pan and add three or four generous size links of good Italian pork sausage. (we like the kind with fennel and garlic) preferably home made, from grandpop, but if you’re buying it, get REALLY good stuff and it has to have some fat in it… can’t be too lean
                                                                                                    Get the sausage “nice an’ brown” on all sides, and add that to the pot with the sauce.

                                                                                                    Let this cook for another half hour or more…
                                                                                                    (meatballs really shouldn’t cook all day, like the rest of the meats in a good sauce… otherwise they’ll start to fall apart just from being in the pot too long)

                                                                                                    For the meatballs:
                                                                                                    Mixture of ground beef and pork 50/50
                                                                                                    1 egg per each pound of beef
                                                                                                    Mince garlic and place in a cheese cloth. Put in a bowl and pour hot water over it, let it steep a few minutes till the water cools and then gently ring it out. (this gives even garlic flavor throughout, without anyone biting into a piece of garlic in the meatball)
                                                                                                    Use three or so tablespoons of the ‘garlic water’ per pound of meat
                                                                                                    One generous palm full of locatelli/pecorino romano grated cheese
                                                                                                    A big pinch of salt
                                                                                                    Chopped parsley (lots, we never measured this, it was just a nice amount, another handful per pound)
                                                                                                    Home made bread crumbs – two big handfuls per pound of meat.
                                                                                                    Mix all together with your hands… if it’s dry, you can add one more egg (if making more than one pound of meat) if you’re only making one pound of meat, add a little water.

                                                                                                    Form the meat into balls and fry, turning once or twice during cooking. get the meatballs ‘nice and brown’ on the outside *(see where we’re going here? All those layers of ‘nice and brown’ flavor are building up in the pan)
                                                                                                    Stir your pot really well before you put the meatballs in.
                                                                                                    Add the meatballs to the pot of tomato sauce as they brown.
                                                                                                    When you’re done cooking the meatballs, pour off the oil return the pan to the stove and add about a cup of red wine… deglaze the frying pan with red wine and dump that into the pot. Give one more GENTLE stir and turn the heat down to just bubble…… bubble….. bubble….. (it shouldn’t be sputtering all over the place)
                                                                                                    Now here’s the hard part… don’t skim that fat that comes to the top. My grandmother will smack the back of your hand for doing that, so don’t do it and don’t you dare dip a piece of bread straight into the pot! Another smack on the back of the hand for that one.

                                                                                                    And you have to GENTLY stir every once in a while, not too much!

                                                                                                    Let the meatballs cook in the pot with everything for another hour… maybe two, if you have to keep it on long, then you’re done.

                                                                                                    Ok, and the ‘proper’ way to eat this feast.

                                                                                                    Boil your pasta al dente, (Madonna mia, please al dente, no mushy pasta) drain it well and put it back in the pot which you cooked it. Ladle one or two ladles of gravy over the pasta, no more…. Stir it well, let it sit on the burner with the residual heat from the pan, maybe add a little more gravy if it gets too dry.

                                                                                                    Serve the pasta FIRST… out on large serving platter, sauce on the side, cheese on the side, dried red pepper flakes on the side. Eat it from a bowl, not a plate. And tuck your napkin into your shirt, especially if you’re wearing a white shirt.

                                                                                                    THEN you put out the meats and the salad and fried hot peppers and the bread. I always liked to have my salad in the bowl that I had the pasta in, something about the leftover sauce mixing on the greens which were dressed with *just a little too much vinegar, that I LOVED! We’d take the salad, dredge it through whatever sauce was on the plate and stuff it into the heel of the bread and have a ‘salad sandwich’.. HEAVEN!

                                                                                                    If you’re good, for dessert, grandpop will take out his pocket knife and peel you an orange in one big continuous strip without breaking the peel.

                                                                                                    If you’re REALLY good, you can have a juice glass half full of grandpop’s wine with dinner.

                                                                                                    1. re: cgarner

                                                                                                      cgarner...you've painted a very vivid picture!
                                                                                                      Thanks for sharing.

                                                                                                      I've been especially good...can I have a full glass of grandpop's home made red?

                                                                                                      1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                        well, Professore, since my Dad and I have continued the wine making tradition, yes you can have a full glass of wine!

                                                                                                        1. re: cgarner

                                                                                                          Thanks cg...I really do wish I could take you up on that!
                                                                                                          I've been brewing beer at home for 40 years but have never tackled wine.
                                                                                                          This year may be the year to try it.
                                                                                                          Do you press grapes, buy pre-pressed juice, or use concentrates? Just curious.

                                                                                                          I don't have a press for grapes, but there is a supplier in Northern NJ that sells wine grapes twice a year (once for each hemisphere's product) and they offer to press the grapes for those don't have the hardware to do it. I think I'm looking at 6 gal of Cabernet Sauvignon and 6 gal of a very rich red to blend in. Not looking for ramped up alcohol, but love full bodied reds.

                                                                                                          1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                            We have a grape crusher and a press which are both literally about a hundred years old.
                                                                                                            The crusher is a big hopper with gears that you hand crank. (I’m sure you’ve seen them)
                                                                                                            There are some excellent quality fresh juices you can buy by the 6gal buckets and I think that may be the route we’re taking this year. (we had a minor ‘lapse’ in judgement last year which yielded a sweeter red)
                                                                                                            The drawback to buying just the juice, is that you’re missing the skin and some of the stem, which gives you the tannins that we really look forward to having in our “big” reds.

                                                                                                            If you can still get good grapes and have the ability to have them crushed it’s not a bad idea. The problem with those big commercial crushers is that they crush EVERYTHING and I find that removing about 50% of the stem from the grapes before crushing them really gives the best balance for the tannins.
                                                                                                            You could always blend too. Small batches of the crushed with the juice alone.

                                                                                                        1. re: walker

                                                                                                          Home made breadcrumbs in the meatballs
                                                                                                          Rarely bread on the table while we're eating the pasta, really they only put bread out on the table during pasta dinners for us kids, because we'd mutiny without it.

                                                                                                    2. browned meat = flavor...it's not only for the meatballs, but also for the sauce!

                                                                                                      I first brown everything then simmer in tomato for a few hours.

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                                                                                                      1. re: Novelli

                                                                                                        A zillion ways to make a meatball. Grinding your own meat (beef, veal, pork) is a good start.
                                                                                                        Egg (yolk or whole), milk-soaked bread, herbs, cheese and so on are personal choices. I like to brown the meatballs before adding them to the sauce, others may differ.
                                                                                                        At the end of the day, meatballs are very subjective. Rao's is off limits to mere mortals but I hear they make a killer meatball. Baldoria, in midtown, is the son of Rao. Maybe I should go there just to tune-up my taste buds before making further adjustments.

                                                                                                        1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                          I agree that grinding your own is a big step to a better meatball. I use a coarser grind for mine, about 75% pork and 25% beef along with some basil, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper, nutmeg, chopped onion, egg, milk soaked bread, and a healthy splash of red wine.
                                                                                                          I've done them both pan fried and oven roasted (after which hey get a simmer in some red sauce, of course) and much prefer the pan fried, which turn out no more greasy than the oven variety and to me taste a lot better. The braise in red sauce afterwards really seals the deal though...that's a step I just can't skip.

                                                                                                          1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                            Professor --

                                                                                                            Since I have never had much luck pan frying, can you give me some more specifics on your techniques?
                                                                                                            1. How much oil do you put in the pan?
                                                                                                            2. How long do you brown them?
                                                                                                            3. How do you keep them from flattening out too much in the pan?

                                                                                                            I'm always looking for ways to make them better!

                                                                                                            1. re: pezzuto

                                                                                                              With my meatballs, after mixing up meat, etc. I leave it covered, in fridge, an hour or two. Then I form the meatballs; it does not bother me if they are not completely round when cooked.

                                                                                                              I only put a small amt of olive oil in 2 12" non stick skillets (I do 2 pans at a time to speed things up since I do 3 Lbs of meat at a go -- freeze extra cooked meatballs in sauce).

                                                                                                              Salt as soon as you remove them from pan, when they are well browned on all sides.

                                                                                                        2. re: Novelli

                                                                                                          I don't know why it didn't occur to me before but it would be a good idea to brown the meatballs in a pot and then make the sauce in that pot. I've been baking mine and then scraping the sheet into the pan to get all the juices/fat.

                                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                                            exactly.

                                                                                                            Brown the meatballs in the pot you're using for your sauce. That way you can deglaze with the tomatoes and get all that flavor off the bottom of the pot and into your sauce.

                                                                                                            I use my sauce pot to brown everything in batches before tossing in the tomato. Really helps develop the flavor.

                                                                                                        3. I brown them in the oven then add to the gravy. They seem to stay whole better this way. If you are trying to avoid extra fat don't just cook them in the gravy.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: miriamjo

                                                                                                            Interesting. I cook them in the sauce for the opposite reason. Mine would always fall apart in the browning, so I started cooking them in simmering sauce to keep them whole.

                                                                                                          2. I smoke them first in a stovetop smoker (or wok lined with aluminum foil). This adds great flavor, but I do not do it long enough to cook them completely. Generally I steam them in a bamboo steamer after smoking, then brown in a pan before adding to the sauce. If I am going to freeze some, I do it before the browning. I think the extra work makes for more flavor. Sometimes I add flavors to the meatball mix that reflect those in the sauce, so cooking in the sauce adds little.

                                                                                                            Yes, there is a Chinese influence.

                                                                                                            1. I put a lot of stuff into my meatballs, meatloaf, and frikadellen, so they are always moist. I have never used commercial breadcrumbs. I soak torn-up bread first, then add my onion, garlic, bell pepper, coleslaw, mushrooms, egg, tomato paste, dry onion soup mix, teriyaki sauce (or Kitchen Bouquet/Gravy Master). I mix all that together thoroughly with my hands, so that by the time I add the ground beef the bread has broken down completely. I don't brown the meatballs if I am putting them into spaghetti sauce - I just arrange them atop the barely simmering sauce and leave them to cook, unmolested, for about 40 minutes. By then they are firm enough to hold their shape when gently turned over with a soup spoon, so the tops will cook in the sauce. The reason I don't brown them first is that I think the sauce and meat exchange flavors better if there's no pre-browning. I did used to have more fragile meatloaf, meatballs, and frikadellen, until I started slicing the onions super-thinly on my V-slicer rather than shopping them. The thin strings of onion create a matrix for the rest of the mixture to cling to.

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                Wow, you sound like quite the meatball martyr. Thanks for the tip. Took your advice and we loved them.

                                                                                                                1. I just bake them. It's much less work than frying batches of them in a pan. I've tried frying them in the past to get that dark brown surface, but most of it comes off the meatball when you simmer them in the sauce for a while.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                                                    I baked a batch of 36 ground turkey meatballs (for a spinach pesto sauce w/ penne) tonight. They keep their shape so nicely. I tried browning meatballs in a frying pan earlier this week and they fell apart. Still tasted good I just ended up w/ about 5 whole meatballs after rolling twenty.

                                                                                                                  2. I've always baked them in the oven before adding to sauce. I tried Mario Batali's suggestion of just poaching them raw in the sauce but I didn't like the texture at all. I'm sticking with baking first.

                                                                                                                    1. I put frikkadels in the oven with lots of oil (and baste them in the oil as they cook).

                                                                                                                      Regular meatballs or curry kofta, I actually deep-fry mine (but not in my deep fryer, in a pan on the stove because it sure makes a mess of the oil). I know it's really unhealthy but they maintain a lot of the juiciness that way and they cook evenly. Once they're done, I pop them in the sauce for 15 minutes to 1 hour so that they absorb the flavour.

                                                                                                                      (I also deep-fry my potatoes for curry and many other dishes, as it helps them maintain their integrity in the sauce.)

                                                                                                                      1. I made tiny chicken meatballs today (maybe marble-sized), so they fried/browned very quickly, no need to heat up the oven on a 90+ day. They were really pretty. Now resting in a bowl in the fridge--I'll add them to some bubbling tomato sauce for dinner tomorrow.

                                                                                                                        1. This is my first post to chowhound although I am a novice chef with a passion for cooking. I read this post and wanted to reply with my recipe. I grew up in Northern NJ and although I am Irish American most of my friends were Italian and I learned to cook by watching and helping their mothers cook sunday dinner. First the sauce, I use La Fede or Nina whole plum tomatoes pulsed in the blender until smooth. I saute 1/2 onion and 8 cloves garlic and a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes pinch of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper in 1/4 cup good quality olive oil for 5 minutes or so then add 2 large 100 oz cans of tomatoes blended as mentioned and bring to a boil. In my opinion the best way to make a meatball is to fry in a large cast iron seasoned skillet. I have been using mine for years. Never wash it only use salt and oil to clean it. I combine 4 eggs, 1 large grated onion, 12 cloves of garlic pressed, 2 cups of seasoned panko breadcrumbs soaked in milk for 10 minutes until fluffy, 2 cups pecorino romano (I use Locatelli), salt pepper, handful of fresh parsley chopped and 4 pounds of beef, veal, pork mix (meatloaf mix). Mix with hands lightly until combined. The soaked panko make the meatballs moist. Brown them in a combination of vegetable oil and a splash of olive oil. Once browned drain them on paper towels for a minute then add to the simmering sauce. Cook at least 3 hours, but 5 if you have the time. Add a handful of basil in the last half hour of cooking to add a freshness to the sauce. They won't fall apart. Trust me I make them every Sunday. My sister in laws mother who is first generation from Italy said they are as good as hers and her mothers. That is the untimate compliment. I hope this helps you. I normally make my own pasta, but when I don't want to I think DeCecco is great for dried. Cook the pasta in water that is salted to taste like the sea. Dry pasta has no salt. Once the pasta is drained (never rinse)!!! add it back to the pot and laddle a few laddles of sauce to the pasta then cook the sauce into the pasta for a minute. Serve the pasta in a large bowl sprinkle with good pecorino and serve the meat on the side. I normally keep this close to the chest, but I am in a giving mood since it is the holiday season. Hope it becomes one of you go to meatball recipes. Merry Christmas. Mark

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: mmoran75

                                                                                                                            Wow!!! You made your CH debut in grand style :) Thanks SO much for all that detail. And welcome. Please keep sharing.

                                                                                                                            1. re: mmoran75

                                                                                                                              God bless you, dear, for sharing such a wonderful recipe. I am also mostly Irish American, and my parents were from Philadelphia, and my mother raised me on Irish and Italian foods; however, she never got a sauce recipe this good, and never made meatballs. Thank you sooooo much!:)

                                                                                                                              1. re: charlene75

                                                                                                                                Oh, no, I just looked and this poster hasn't posted again :( I was really looking forward to more.

                                                                                                                            2. I am a fan of the fry then add sauce method, but clearly, there's no one way to make meatballs: http://bit.ly/101Meatballs

                                                                                                                              1. USE TO MAKE THEM IN SAUCE, BUT NOW FRY EM B4 HAND, NOT AS GREASY...YUMMY..:)

                                                                                                                                1. Hi, I put them on a shallow tray (the broiler type with the ridges so the fat runs off) and bake them in the oven at about 350 degrees for about 20 minutes and finish them in the sauce. Hope this helps!

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: msgenie516

                                                                                                                                    Never knew there was another way (baking 20 min @ 350F). Wouldn't cooking them in the sauce equate to boiling them? How can the meat develop any flavor if simply boiled (or am I misunderstanding)?

                                                                                                                                    1. I've done it both ways, but browning first is better. There have been times when I've been in a time crunch & just haven't wanted to take the extra step of cooking those balls, so I've just dumped them in the simmering sauce. It works, but you run the risk of having them fall apart, and they do not add nearly as much flavor to the sauce. Pan frying them is the best, but it takes a lot of time, especially if you make a big quantity. My usual MO is to bake them in the oven to brown them. I do the same with the hot and sweet sausage I put in my sauce. I put a thin layer of olive oil on the baking sheet first because I want the OO taste in the meat. I bake the sausage whole, in the coil, then cut it into pieces after it's browned. I will make up to 100-120 meatballs at a time, and do big coils of sausage -- half goes in the gravy I'm making; the rest gets cooled and put in the freezer for my next batch. TRUE CONFESSION: I keep a bag of commercial, frozen turkey meatballs in the freezer for a grand child emergency. Yeah, yeah, they aren't great, but they have saved the day for me more than once. I've even put them in soup for the kiddies.

                                                                                                                                      1. Pan-frying them seems to be the most authentic way, but I always make ridiculously large batches and bake them on sheet pans. The most important and also hardest part is spacing them adequately so that they brown evenly instead of steaming. So tempting to crowd as many as possible onto one pan.
                                                                                                                                        I freeze a bunch and drop the rest into hot marinara before serving.

                                                                                                                                        My youngest prefers them perched on top of the sauced pasta. He saw it that way in a cartoon, and I aim to please when it's such a simple request :)

                                                                                                                                        1. Bake them 20-25 minutes at 350 then add to sauce