Oven Meatballs–You’ve Got to Make These

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
quick easy meatballs

Meatballs are easy to bake and freeze for later to throw in pasta sauce, stuff in a sub sandwich or slice and serve as an appetizer.

I’ve made about a million meatball variations always looking for the ultimate recipe. This gets very confusing and stressful for someone like me who has a particular affinity for easy ratios and streamlined methods, but who regularly falls for anything new and unusual. I should know better. Don’t get me started on the seasoning variations. As often happens, in the end shaking my head, I come crawling back to the simplest version.  

For making meatballs (and meatloaf for that matter), all you really need to know is the ratio of meat to egg to breadcrumbs to liquid to salt to one pound of meat.  Here’s the all-important answer…1 pound of meat, 1 egg, 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, 1/3 cup milk or water, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Everything else is fluff.

The recipe is easy to scale up. Yes, you can vary the meat, add cheese or seasonings, whatever, but don’t go too wild. More seasonings make cluttered meatballs, not better meatballs. The basic ratios matter most. It’s especially handy to know that when seasoning raw meat, you need 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt per pound.

Bake the meatballs in the oven or brown them in a skillet with a finishing simmer in your red sauce. We often bake a big batch and freeze them. They’re easy to reheat in the microwave to serve as an easy appetizer or toss in your favorite bottled red sauce for an easy supper. Or, take a few moments and make our Cheater Chef Tomato Sauce. It freezes well so make extra and store in small batches for easy use later.

And one more thing.  We often omit the bread crumbs and milk and substitute a cup of cooked brown rice per pound of meat.  This idea comes from the usual cabbage roll filling and it works like a charm.  We often have a pot of brown rice going in the small rice cooker so it’s convenient.  In fact, if you don’t have a little rice cooker get one.  You’ll never again worry about how your rice turns out again.  There’s a reason Asian households always have a rice cooker.  Perfect every time.

For Asian meatballs, use rice as the filler instead of breadcrumbs and milk.  Add a tablespoon of fish sauce, a generous tablespoon of grated ginger, and two big cloves of garlic minced per pound of meat.  Serve with a big squeeze of lime juice, rice, and stir-fried vegetables.

If you are making a big batch, the baking time will increase because the oven is full.  Cook until they are well browned and the internal temperature reads 165 F.  They freeze well!  Homemade meatballs ready when you are, what could be better than that? We usually make a two-pound meat batch.

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