The Meatball Revolution

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From Swedish to sweet and sour, jumbo Italian style and tiny highly seasoned fish balls, the meatball revolution started rolling about two years ago and is now an outright favorite from fine dining to Middle Eastern food trucks. I grew up eating spaghetti and meatballs every Wednesday, because as the television ad claimed, Wednesday’s were Prince Spaghetti day! My mother would use ground chuck, seasoned Italian bread crumbs, fresh parsley, garlic salt, eggs, a tablespoon of milk and a little bit of love.

While the classic spaghetti and meatballs may still be the overwhelming favorite, a twist on Swedish meatballs, sausage stuffed meatballs and a surge in Middle Eastern foods is keeping chefs and party hosts looking for a rounded menu of new recipes and flavors. Gone mostly is the classic pasta unless you are a red sauce establishment. Look for meatballs served in soups, on mini buns and over grilled vegetables.

Kofta is a Middle Eastern and South Asian meatball. In the simplest forms, Kofta consists of balls of minced or ground meat mixed with spices and onions. The meat is often mixed with rice, bulgar, vegetables or eggs. They can be grilled, fried, steamed, poached, baked and sometimes marinated. Fish may also substitute for meat.


4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound ground lamb

3 tablespoons grated onion

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

28 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for

30 minutes


1. Mash the garlic into a paste with the salt using a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a chef's knife on your cutting board. Mix the garlic into the lamb along with the onion, parsley, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne pepper, ginger, and pepper in a mixing bowl until well blended. Form the mixture into 28 balls. Form each ball around the tip of a skewer, flattening into a 2 inch oval; repeat with the remaining skewers. Place the kebabs onto a baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 12 hours.

2. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat, and lightly oil grate.

3. Cook the skewers on the preheated grill, turning occasionally, until the lamb has cooked to your desired degree of doneness, about 6 minutes for medium.

Asian Style Meatballs


• 1/4 cup whole milk

• 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs

• 3/4 pound ground pork

• 3/4 pound ground veal

• 1 large egg, lightly beaten

• 1/2 cup canned sliced water chestnuts, rinsed, drained, and finely chopped

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus 1/4 cup sprigs

• 5 tablespoons soy sauce

• 4 teaspoons Asian sesame oil

• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

• 2 tablespoons water

• 2 teaspoons sugar

• Accompaniment: steamed white rice


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 500°F.

Pour milk over bread crumbs in a large bowl and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add ground meat, egg, water chestnuts, salt, chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons oil and mix with your hands until combined well. Shape 3 tablespoons meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish. Make more meatballs with remaining mixture, arranging meatballs about 1/2 inch apart in baking dish. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together lime juice, water, sugar, remaining 4 tablespoons soy sauce, and remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.

Transfer meatballs to a serving dish. Stir sauce, then drizzle meatballs with 1 tablespoon sauce and sprinkle with cilantro sprigs.

Serve meatballs with remaining sauce.

Mama Mandola’s Meatballs-

Damien Mandola and Johnny Carrabba sure know their meatballs and how fortunate am I to have the recipe.

Olive oil for the baking sheets

1 cup course chopped onion

2 scallions, white and green parts, coarsely chopped

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

1 garlic clove

1 large egg, beaten

½ cup homemade plain breadcrumbs

½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

4 teaspoons Kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 11/2 pounds ground round beef

1 ¾ pound ground pork

1 quart tomato sauce

Position rack in top third and center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees

Lightly oil 2 large rimmed baking sheets

Pulse the onion, scallion, parsley, basil and garlic together in a food processor fitted with the metal blade about 8 times, or until very finely minced. Add the egg and pulse a few times to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add ¾ cup of water, breadcrumbs Romano Cheese, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the ground meats and mix well. Using hands rinsed under cold water, shape the mixture into 36 meatballs. Arrange the meatballs on the baking sheets.

Bake until the meatballs are browned, and show no sign of pink when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 25 minutes.