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Mix up mundane meals with meatballs

Published March 24. 2010 05:00PM

They've been around for ages and can be found across numerous cultures, but they've only earned their English name in recent times.

As food historians can tell, the term "meatball" is fairly new, most likely created in melting pot America to refer to the classic Italian-American version so often tucked into gooey subs, slathered in red sauce and spooned over noodles, or bobbing in soup.

But balls of meat are at least as old as written recipes, with references to the idea dating back to Apicius, a collection of Roman recipes regarded as the first cookbook, said Ken Albala, food historian at the University of the Pacific, California.

Below are two recipes that will make any mouth water with delight over meatballs.

Gravy meatball


Start to finish: 2 hours

Servings: 12

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground veal

1 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for serving

3 large eggs

3 cups water, divided

1 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs

1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 cups vegetable oil for cooking

1 Spanish onion, chopped

cup chopped garlic

1 bunch fresh basil, chopped

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

36 small buns

In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, veal, cheese, eggs, 1 cup water, breadcrumbs, three-quarters of the parsley, and salt and pepper. Use hands to mix well. Shape into 2-inch balls.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat oil until it shimmers. Add meatballs and sear on all sides until well browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meatballs to a plate. Cover with foil and set aside.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the pan (do not discard any of the browned meat bits on the bottom of the pan). Return pan to heat and add onion, garlic, basil, all but 1 tablespoon of the remaining parsley, and fennel seeds. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until onion is slightly brown.

Add tomatoes and remaining 2 cups of water. Cook sauce for 30 minutes. Add meatballs to the sauce and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Serve on buns and top with grated cheese and remaining parsley.

Nutrition information per three sliders: 588 calories; 218 calories from fat; 24 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 128 mg cholesterol; 54 g carbohydrate; 34 g protein; 4 g fiber; 1,109 mg sodium.

(Recipe adapted from Joey Campanaro, chef at Little Owl restaurant in New York)

Miso-ginger meatballs with spicy peanut

dipping sauce

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

For the meatballs:

2 tablespoons sweet white miso

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 pound lean ground beef

3 scallions, finely chopped

For the peanut dipping sauce:

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

6 tablespoons water

Heat oven to 400 F. Spritz baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a blender, combine miso, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic powder and ginger. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a large bowl. Add beef and scallions, mix well.

Form mixture into about 12 meatballs, arrange them on prepared baking sheet. Spritz meatballs with cooking spray, bake until cooked, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in blender combine peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, garlic powder, ginger and water. Blend until smooth.

Serve meatballs on toothpicks for easy dipping. Alternatively, use them in a sub and drizzle peanut sauce over them.

Nutrition information per serving: 384 calories; 209 calories from fat; 23 g fat (4 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 31 g protein; 3 g fiber; 1,255 mg sodium.

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