MEATBALLS!! I’m calling this blogpost a cooking “class” because I hope to impart some openmindedness about cooking, especially MEATBALLS here. I will bet ca$h that people hear the word MEATBALL and have a singular type or recipe in mind and never leave that safe insular world of that ONE version they have lodged in their heads. Let me help you out of that space, it’s too confining. There’s a world of meatballs out there from all different regions and cuisines. I’ll start off this Cooking Class on meatballs with one I developed last night for dinner. Freshly made Italian Sweet Fennel Sausages, Fontina Cheese, Baby Arugula, White Wine, Garlic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil are a few of the ingredients that went into this version. There are meatballs with specific guidelines or recipes…like Swedish meatballs or all the Frikadeller, Kottbullar, Albondigas, Polpette for Sunday Sauce (Gravy) but away from those specific traditional recipes there’s many types made from all types of meats with all types of other ingredients. Here’s where I just through a requirement out there, when creating your own meatball recipes have a region or cuisine in mind and stay true to those ingredients or you run the risk of creating a disaster. The Fontina led me to be a little more Northern Italian in my approach, certainly this is not a Northern Italian recipe just leaning on some of it’s ingredients for a delicious meatball that works. A really nice response on Facebook and Instagram after my posting the finished balls is what is prompting this blogpost.
What is making me call these Northern Italian? Fontina mainly, a delicious creamy and nutty cheese from Northern Italy (also, Wisconsin, Denmark, Sweden) which melts beautiful. It set off the whole flavor pallette for me. The meatballs are fried and finished off in a pan of White Wine, Garlic and Olive Oil, a hint of oregano, sort of a sauce that is pretty popular in lots of Italian, North and South scallopine style dishes..certainly it leans to the North. The Sausage is used all over Italy but it’s important for this dish you use Italian Sweet Sausage. There’s also no tomato in this dish. I also used Parmigiano-Reggiano in the dish, so let’s start cooking shall we?
FOR 4-6, MAKES ABOUT 18 MEATBALLS TIME: ABOUT 45 MINUTES
1 1/2 LB. GOOD QUALITY SWEET ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE OUT OF IT’S CASING
1/2 CUP DICED FONTINA CHEESE (MAKE SURE IT’S CHILLED FIRST OR IT WILL MELT AND STICK TO THE KNIFE AND CUTTING SURFACE, SMALL DICE SIZE)
1 1/2 CUPS FINELY CHOPPED BABY ARUGULA LEAVES
1 TBS. WHITE WINE (I USED ONE FROM THE VENETO, FIND ONE FROM NORTHERN ITALY TOO, MAKES YOUR DISH A LITTLE MORE TRUE TO A REGION)
1 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
3 TBS. GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE
1/8 CUP SOAKED ITALIAN OR WHITE BREAD, MILK OR WATER, SQUEEZE OUT EXCESS.
1 FINELY MINCED SMALL CLOVE OF GARLIC
1 CUP WHITE WINE
2 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 SMASHED CLOVE OF GARLIC
PINCH OF DRIED OREGANO (CERTAINLY A SPRIG OF FRESH THYME WOULD WORK WELL ALSO)
Start the balls…break up the bread into a bowl, add all the ingredients and when all blended (wait, where’s the salt and pepper??? do not add any extra..you are using Italian sausage, it’s already seasoned). Same with the garlic…before I write out my recipes I always research “like” recipes because it’s good to make sure you are giving proper instructions and there’s always a tip or two to pick up here and there. What I do notice is the overkill in many ingredients which turns a dish in to a ONE note flavored dish. Most of the sausage “meatball” recipes I’ve seen have up to 3 cloves of garlic in them. I love garlic but 3 cloves of garlic will turn this recipe into a “Garlicball” recipe. I want you to taste the olive oil, the sausage, the wine, the Fontina and the arugula..not just garlic. So, that’s why is a relatively small amount that goes into this recipe. When forming the balls, about walnut sized for more even cooking, try to press the cheese into the centers as best as possible. Some will melt out, that’s ok and creates a kick-ass tasty crust, don’t panic. After you’ve formed the meatballs, begin to fry them in a wide pan, about 1 tbs of olive oil om medium heat for about 8 minutes on side one…then turn and fry for 5 minutes, now…carefully add a little more olive oil and one smashed clove of garlic, as soon as it’s taken on light color, remove. Add a pinch of oregano, then the white wine, shake the pan up to distribute all the sauce or before you start remove the meatballs, start the sauce and add the meatballs back. See!! There’s lots of ways to get to the same spot. NO KITCHEN PANIC HERE!!!
See that crust on them? OK,, yes, yes I did , i picked at one. Delicious. Since these are made with pork there is no medium rare, the balls must be fully cooked. You finish them by slowly simmering them for an additional 20 minutes in the olive oil and wine bath. Check for them being done by simply cutting one in half. You see pink? 5 minutes more. But after the initial frying then the simmering process you should be done.
Let them sit in the wine for about 5 minutes after removing from the heat, then serve.
Platter the meatballs and pour the pan sauce over it..this is not a thick gravy so don’t think it needs to be thicker. Serve this with a pasta dish. or with some good bread and sauteed greens.
Happy Cooking! Have I changed your concept of what a meatball is? If it kills me my mission will be to pull you all out of the one food(meatloaf, meatballs, pasta sauce, etc) one recipe mindset and you’ll start to create great versions of your own never saying “I just am sick of making (insert food here) the same way all the time!”.