I love meatballs! Chicken, beef, lamb. Not for the obvious reason of enjoying local fresh “clean” meat, but because you can make them up in big batches relatively quickly and freeze them for later use. And now all of our local farms have plenty of meat available from their late fall processing.
My meatballs are small for a couple of reasons. First, they bake up quicker and they are more healthy than frying. Second, they freeze well and thaw fast when you’re in a pinch for time. Third, they are versatile. You can break them up into lasagna, soup or on top of your pizza. or send them with your kids to college. You can leave them whole for a sub sandwich or put them on a variety of pastas with different sauces. The meatballs store for up to 3 months in the freezer so you have plenty of time to use them all up.
When I am making the meatballs I run a test by cooking up a couple to check the salt, pepper and spice levels in the meat. This is also an opportunity to divide up your meatballs and adjust some with more spices and some with less if you have particular needs within your family. I cook up the test meatballs in a small frying pan and adjust the raw meat accordingly. It takes just a couple of minutes and allows me double-check the recipe flavors.
Swedish Meatballs are relatively inexpensive and have an interesting mix of flavors. In more recent years, I started to use these meatballs, broken up, for a Bolognese Ragu with Fettuccine recipe from Cooking Light that I ran across several years ago. The ratio of meats in the meatballs is almost the same as the original recipe and using the meatballs and frozen stock items cuts the production time for dinner in half.
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1 cup minced sweet onion
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/3 cup soft bread crumbs (any kind)
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Mix the bread crumbs, onion, spices, egg and Worcestershire sauce together until well blended.
- Then mix all three “meats” together with the first set of ingredients and roll into 1″ meatballs. Set these on a baking rack which is set onto a baking pan with parchment paper to catch the grease in the bottom of the pan.
- Bake at 425F for about 10-15 minutes. You want them cooked through, but not browned or they will come out dry later when served.
Traditional White Sauce:
For the traditional but lighter and much quicker version of a “white” sauce for these I blend together about 12 ounces of cold beef broth with 1 tablespoon cornstarch until the cornstarch is completely blended. Then I blend in about 1/2 cup of evaporated milk (whole milk or half & half will work but adjust the amount you are using because evaporated milk has less water in it) and bring the entire mixture up to a low simmer to set the cornstarch in action. After that cooks for a couple of minutes and begins to thicken you can add the already heated meatballs and serve over pasta with a bit of fresh parsley sprinkled on the top. You can also add a bit of Asiago or Parmesan cheese for some additional flavor
Traditional Bolognese Ragu Sauce:
I’ve adapted this sauce to fit a busy lifestyle by storing an equal mix of sauteed carrots, celery and onion in my freezer. You’ll need a total of about 3 cups (1 cup of each ingredient). Traditionally there would be less carrot, so if you want or need to cut back on an ingredient, you can reduce the carrot to 1/2 cup.
You are going to saute all of the veggies until they are soft. Then you’ll add your broken up meatballs and cook everything until it’s a little bit brown to develop some flavor.
Once it’s a bit brown, add 1 cup of dry white wine to deglaze the pot, 1 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, salt and pepper and bring this to a boil. Cook 5 minutes and add about 10 ounces of tomato puree and about 14 ounces of chicken broth. Again, I have roasted tomatoes and chicken broth stored in my freezer so I use those and it cuts out at least half of the cooking time because the flavor is already built into my base ingredients. You will need to cook all of this for about an hour if you don’t have something already home-made to use because you’ll need to concentrate your flavors by reduce the water your tomato and chicken broth a bit in the cooking process.
Once you’ve cooked this for about an hour, stir in 1 cup of milk. I do temper my milk or heat it ahead of time. Gently cook this for another 30 minutes.
Serve over fettuccine and top with Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.