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Meatballs with Sauce

If you have been reading the past two weeks, you now have a new summer cocktail and a go-to appetizer. Today, it’s time to get to the meat of the menu, literally. This installment of the Summer Entertaining Toolkit features an entree of rich pork meatballs. If this doesn’t strike you as an ideal summer main dish, let me explain the value. The key selling points to this recipe are ease of preparation and versatility of serving. Meatballs are not much work to assemble and can be cooked in advance of your gathering, then simply sauced and reheated when guests arrive. These specific mounds are bold in flavor and succulently juicy thanks to the rich fatty bacon and pungent herbs that pulse throughout. The combination of flavors are not only delicious on their own, but allow for easy pairing with a variety of sauces. Whether covered with a favorite red sauce, creamy garlicky white sauce, such as Alfredo, or Asian-style sweet and spicy red chili sauce, these meatballs compliment both savory and sweet tastes. Serving options are also customizable. Nestle the meatballs atop hot cooked pasta, grilled fresh vegetables, or hearty risotto and ferry to the table spread on a large platter, family style, or serve individually plated. Also, try slicing and layering them on fresh pizza dough spread with a spicy red sauce. Top with fresh mozzarella slices, then bake, grill, or broil to cook and crisp the dough and melt the cheese. Finish with a light covering of torn fresh basil leaves and freshly grated Parmesan. Any way you try them, they are a welcome departure from typical summer proteins and will give your guests a pleasant supper surprise.

Norm’s Notes: Plates and Platters

Plain white plates and serving platters are the culinary equivalent to a crisp white dress shirt and navy blazer. Whether dressed formal or untucked with a collar button popped for casual appeal, the combo is suitable for most occasions. Think of plain white dinnerware and serve-ware in the same way. If you don’t have a set, you should; they are worth the investment. If you don’t want to buy any, I say mix and match similar colors and sizes you have on hand and call it a day. They won’t look tacky. Just be sure to have enough plates to set as many places your table comfortably holds. You can tie the settings together in other ways, like choosing an interesting linen that matches the two styles or colors of plates or by adding a contrasting charger. However, to add color, intrigue, and personal style to the setting, reach for a stack of patterned salad plates. They are a simple way to add flare to the table without a lot of added cost. You can find a stack of 6 plates with fun contemporary summer patterns for around $25 to $30 and design your table around their colors and feel. Use the same formula as the dinner plates and only buy for the amount of places at the table.

Meatball ingredients

You are welcome to substitute beef for the pork, but I encourage the use of the hog over the steer. The pork base yields a rich and creamy meatball that is beautifully complimented by bursts of smoky bacon flavor concealed within. Also, the flavor of mint is an essential component of this recipe. Its astringent properties help balance the richness and fattiness found in the ground pork and bacon. Too much of it can be a bad thing, so stick to the recipe amount to get the best results.

shaped meatballs

The addition of pecorino keeps the salt level down, but be sure to taste the meatball mixture’s seasoning before shaping and baking. To do so, form a small patty from the mixture and place in a skillet over medium heat and cook through. Taste and adjust seasoning according to your preference, then cook and taste a new patty to confirm the seasoning adjustment.

Pork Meatballs

Makes 26 meatballs

½ cup milk

1 large egg

1 cup fresh soft white breadcrumbs

1 ½ lb. ground pork

3 thick cut bacon slices, finely chopped

¼ cup freshly grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

2 Tbsp. grated sweet onion

1 garlic clove, grated

½ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk first 2 ingredients together in a small bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs and let stand 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine pork and next 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Fold in milk mixture until blended. Shape into 26 (1 1/2-inch) balls [about 2 Tbsp. per meatball]. Divide meatballs among two parchment paper or foil-lined jelly roll pans. {You may also bake in batches if only one pan is available for use.}

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through. {Tops will lightly brown.} 

Serving suggestion:

Once the meatballs are baked, I like to simmer them for 10 to 12 minutes in a large skillet over medium heat with one of my favorite store-bought red sauces. It is an Arrabbiata, or spicy red sauce that is flavored with briny capers, that happens to be from the popular man who wears crocs that match his hair and it is well worth the additional couple of dollars you may pay.

11 Responses

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Norman KingNorman is a culinary expert and cookbook author. He first harnessed a love of stirring cast iron skillets atop wooden stools at his grandmother’s stove, leading his heart and feet...


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