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Am I the only one who hates using filler in their meatballs?

I'm talking about meatballs for spaghetti. I've tried every traditional recipe out there with the milk, soaked bread or breadcrumbs, cheese, and yet I've always found that I prefer (by far) just using the meat by itself (seasoned of course).

I've read that all the filler in traditional meatballs are supposed to make them tender, but to me they just end up making them taste doughy and non-meaty (for lack of a better word), while not using any filler gives them a hamburger like consistency which I prefer.

Am I crazy or am I just trying the wrong recipes? Maybe the ingredients I've used aren't good enough quality and that's why my traditional meatballs have failed? Sometimes I can actually taste the cooked dough inside and it's just so off-putting.

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  1. I'm with you. I just use meat (and seasonings).

    Some time back, there was a similar thread and it prompted me to look in my cookbooks for recipes for Italian style meatballs. About half of them included filler, half didnt. Of course, there are many styles of meatballs from national cuisines which would never usually include filler.

    1. You must be doing it wrong if you can taste the filler as "dough".

      The most luscious meatballs I have ever tasted were made with veal and used spices along with the traditional panade and egg yolks and fresh bread crumbs.

      Since meatlballs are cooked through and often for extended periods of time unlike a hamburger, they need more than just meat to stay supple. It's just the nature of the protein.

      Make them however you like, but I;ve never faced your problem.

      Same reason I do not like hamburger as a pizza topping. Once cooked thru, it gets rather tough and quite chewy no matter the fat content.

      Good luck.

      1. If I was served an Italian-style meatball that had the consistency of a hamburger I would be disappointed meatballs IMO should be soft and luscious but they certainly should not taste of dough.

        are you braising your meatballs in the sauce or are you making them separately?

        Is this a problem you have with only your own meatballs or a general preference (ie do you not enjoy meatballs from an Italian restaurant or other's home as well because of the filler as well?)

        2 Replies
        1. re: JTPhilly

          I brown in the frying pan and then add to the sauce for the main part of the cooking. As regards texture, I much prefer the firmer nature that you seem to get when you don't use filler.

          1. re: Harters

            We get quite a firm texture with ours. We use Progresso Seasoned breadcrumbs and Calabro paremesan cheese and egg plus seasonings. Traditionally fried. We don't like the mushy so we don't soak in the sauce so much.

        2. You may be using the wrong technique here. If the panade or breadcrumbs are evenly distributed, you should not end up with doughy middles. Instead, you have a very light and tender meatball.

          When starch and liquid are introduced to the meat mixture in the form of panade, they form a gel like structure which coats the protein strands in the meat and prevents them from linking in a tough matrix. This makes meatballs characteristically moist and smooth. Without the panade, meatballs tend to be denser and coarser, essentially a round hamburger. If you like the coarser texture, keep doing what you're doing, there's nothing wrong with it; just adjust cooking time as they will cook more quickly than meatballs made with filler and binding.

          1. You might want to try a grated onion in the mixture and a little extra oil. That might get you the tenderness your looking for without being doughy.