Meatballs are among my favorite foods … to make and to eat. I often use a recipe based on one I found years ago, from Michael White. He uses lamb, and I do, too, at times. I also use pork and beef, and I’ve made then with veal, as well. I’ve ground my own beef and lamb, and added bacon when I want something smokier.
Last night I made meatballs with a mixture of 80 percent ground pork and 20 percent beef. And this time I used something new to me: a mix, called Melly’s Homemade Meatball Mix. It was sent to me by a PR agency, and though I don’t normally cook with mixes, I gave it a go.
I added chopped onion and some oregano to the powder — ingredients include Pecorino Romano, flour, salt, sugar, and a long list of other things, such as guar gum and oat fiber. I also had some panko bread crumbs I had toasted with olive oil a few nights before, so put those in the bowl with the meats and the rest of the ingredients: 1/4 cup chicken broth, 3 large eggs, about 1.75 pounds of meat, and the onions and oregano. I also microplaned some Parmigiano-Reggiano into the meat.
The mixture as a whole seemed a bit dry, drier than my usual method of making meatballs, so I added a touch of water, perhaps 1/4 cup. It looked and felt better, so I rolled the meat into balls and let them sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so.
When I was ready to cook I poured about 1/2 a cup of olive oil in a skillet — you can use a nonstick pan if you prefer; I used a Belgique skillet I’ve had since 1994, likely the pan I’ve used most often over the years.
The Melly’s Homemade people advise one to cook the meatballs on medium heat, until they reach an internal temperature of 160F. That’s fine — you can also bake them. I, however, was making a tomato sauce, so merely browned the meatballs; they would fully cook in the sauce.
For the sauce, I used a can of Posardi peeled tomatoes, grown on the island of Sardinia. They were slightly sweet, and wonderfully acidic. I chopped a small white onion, cut three garlic cloves into slivers, and heated 1/4 cup or so of olive oil in a small pan. Sauté for five minutes, until the vegetable soften, then add 1/4 cup of red wine and let cook for 5 minutes more. Next, salt and dried oregano (to taste).
It’s time to add the tomatoes to the sauce; the ones I used were whole, so I gently mashed them with a wooden spoon, stirred, and let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes. I then added eight meatballs — the remainder I put into the refrigerator for another meal — covered the pan, and let them simmer for 40 minutes or so.
I like adding some color (other than red) to my meatball dishes, and the addition of fresh spinach is a great way to go. A few minutes before you are ready to serve, toss a handful of spinach into the pan and cover again. The heat and moisture wilt the greens, and you’re done.
How you plate the meatballs is up to you. I ate mine over farfalle, and my dining companion enjoyed hers without the pasta. Both ways are good.
With the meal we drank a 2018 red blend from Aperture Cellars (39 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 33 percent Merlot, 22 percent Malbec, 3 percent Cabernet Franc, and 3 percent Petit Verdot). Delightful pairing.
Verdict on the Melly’s Homemade mix? I would use it again if severely pressed for time. It is in no way bad, though I found the seasoning a bit bland. It’s convenient, however, and if that appeals to you, give the product a try.
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