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Meatballs! History and Recipes

Meatballs The humble meatball is one of the most versatile foods ever created. It consists of ground or minced meat rolled in a ball, combined with other ingredients such as breadcrumbs, herbs, and spices. It can be used in...

Meatballs
Meatballs

The humble meatball is one of the most versatile foods ever created. It consists of ground or minced meat rolled in a ball, combined with other ingredients such as breadcrumbs, herbs, and spices. It can be used in any number of dishes, especially pasta, but also in sandwiches and on top of a bed of rice. They can be served with a sauce or plain.

Sandwich with meatballs
Sandwich with meatballs

No one knows how the meatball was first invented. According to one cooking site, the meatball may have originated in Persia, where the need to do something with leftover meat led to a dish called kofta. From Persia, it spread throughout the Middle East and hence to China. Venetian traders are said to have brought the meatball to Europe, though there is some evidence that the Ancient Romans had a similar confection.

The dish seems to exist in just about every culture on the planet. What the meatball is made of depends on the country and the availability of meat. The Chinese, for example, used pork, though they also pioneered the use of fish in their meatballs. People in the Middle East and North Africa, on the other hand, preferred lamb for their meatballs. The famous Italian meatball, used for pasta sauce, can be made of beef or pork or a combination thereof. The Swedes developed their unique style of meatballs, smaller than elsewhere, and served with cream sauce. Americans prefer lean ground beef for their meatballs, conditioned as they are by hamburger culture. The invention of the meat grinder eliminated the need to use leftover meat to make meatballs and allowed people to use fresh meat for the first time to prepare them.

Chinese fish balls in a soup
Chinese fish balls in a soup

Many people prefer to fry meatballs, perhaps with a little bit of olive oil and with chopped onion and garlic to provide flavor. The problem with this method is that one has to be very careful to make sure that the meatball is not charred on the outside and raw on the inside. Some clever and lazy chefs have found a way to bake meatballs, perhaps by frying them first, and then finishing them in the oven. This method ensures that the meatballs are cooked evenly throughout.

Grilling is also a good method for cooking meatballs, placing them on skewers along with chunks of onion, green peppers, and tomatoes.

Here follow two recipes for meatballs that used the baking method, one of which is derived from Indian cuisine and the other from Texas.

Indian-Style Meatballs

Ingredients

  • One pound ground beef
  • One pound ground lamb
  • Four tablespoons garlic/ginger paste (this can be had in the Asian section of a lot of supermarkets, but the equivalent of minced garlic and ginger root can be substituted.)
  • One tablespoon turmeric
  • One tablespoon garam masala
  • One teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • Two tablespoons chopped mint
  • Two teaspoons lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl thoroughly.
  2. Roll out golf ball-sized meatballs and place onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.
  3. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for one half-hour.

Texas-Style Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • One pound ground beef
  • One pound sweet Italian sausage meat
  • One cup Italian bread crumbs
  • One-quarter cup Texas on the Plate Bodacious Red Soppin’ Sauce, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, or barbecue sauce of your choice
  • One tablespoon Cumin

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl thoroughly.
  2. Roll out golf ball-sized meatballs and place onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.
  3. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees.

Note: Both versions take about ten to fifteen minutes to cook depending on how well done you want them. Let them rest for about five minutes before incorporating them into a larger dish such as pasta or a sandwich or serving them alone.

For more information and interesting recipes please feel free to contact us.