“Mamma mia, that’a spicey meatball-a.”
Back in the late ’60s, there was a hilarious commercial showing an Italian man tasting some meatballs that his doting wife had just placed before him. He famously remarked, “Mamma mia, that’s-a spicey meatball-a.” And zap, that phrase entered the American lexicon. People all over the country were walking around imitating this man. The beauty of the commercial: it was not trying to sell us spaghetti, meatballs or pasta sauce. The commercial was a spoof of a group of people trying to film a food commercial while the actor, in take after take, must taste the meatballs. At the end of the spoof, we learn the real product being sold to us is…Alka-Seltzer. I have no idea what was in those meatballs that was supposed to be giving that guy such heartburn. I do know the meatballs from the recipe below won’t cause you to need Alka-Seltzer.
No-Mess Baked Meatballs
We all know by know that Italians in Italy don’t really eat spaghetti and meatballs together. They do eat meatballs, called polpette, by themselves covered in sauce. But I grew up with meatballs served sitting on a plate of pasta so by golly that’s what we’re doing here today. What I don’t like about cooking meatballs is the mess I create when browning them in a skillet. Yuck. Splatters all over the stove, onto the floor. It is just as easy to bake a meatball and it tastes just as good.
So mix all your ingredients well, minus the meat, in a large bowl. Then use a fork to mix in the meat. Using a fork can prevent over-mixing. As you can see above, I put parsley in this batch of meatballs but I’ve left it out of the recipe. I thought parsley wasn’t needed. Anyhow, you can shape your meatballs with two spoons or, probably the best way is to use one of those portioning scoops, called dishers, with the retracting blades. Most people don’t keep dishers around so a really good way to form meatballs is with your bare hands. Make sure to wet your hands first.
For some reason, I put foil down on the pan underneath the meatballs but it’s not necessary. Space the meatballs in rows then pour the beef broth into the pan. Bake them in a 450 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes.
You can serve your meatballs over pasta or on a plate by themselves or in a sub sandwich. You can also freeze them and here’s how: let them cool off after cooking, place them on another baking dish and freeze, place the frozen meatballs in a plastic bag and put them back in the freezer to enjoy them at any time you wish.
Yield: 30-32 meatballs
Total Time: One hour
- one cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup low sodium beef broth, separated
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoon dried basil (or oregano if preferred)
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- pinch of nutmeg
- 2 pounds ground chuck
- 1 1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
- preheat oven to 450
- stir all ingredients together (except the meat) in a large mixing bowl
- add the meat and mix thoroughly
- using your hands or two spoons, shape the meatballs about 2" in diameter or 1 1/2 ounces each
- spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray
- space the meatballs on the pans so they are not touching
- pour the beef broth into the bottom of the pan
- bake for 25 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through
- reserve the pan juices for the pasta sauce