More than just a topping for a pile of pasta, meatballs can serve as the main attraction. They’re also one of the best party foods since you can keep them warm in a crockpot in your kitchen. Since the basic method is easy to adapt, you can also change the flavors to reflect any type of cuisine. Whether you like a classic Italian version or want to try something totally new, these seven recipes have you covered.
1. Sweet and Sour Meatballs
This dish from Rasa Malaysia combines everything you love about meatballs and Chinese takeout in one great recipe. The meat mixture gets tons of flavor from garlic, ginger, and a little bit of five spice. Once they’re cooked, just whip up a fast sauce made from ketchup, chili sauce, and a little bit of vinegar. The best way to serve these slightly sticky snacks? Toothpicks. Have a garbage can or a small container on hand for easy disposal.
- 12 ounces ground pork or chicken
- 1 (½-inch) piece ginger, finely minced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- ¼ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 pinches ground white pepper
- Cooking oil
- ½ small onion, quartered
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
Directions: In a medium bowl, mix together the pork or chicken, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, sesame oil, white pepper, and a hefty pinch of salt. Be careful not to overwork the mixture. Set a small bowl of water in front of your work station, and use it to wet your hands in between rolling meatballs. Roll mixture into about 24 meatballs, and transfer to a plate.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook meatballs until browned all over and fully cooked. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Mix cornstarch with water. In same pan, add another drizzle of oil. Add onion, and cook briefly, stirring, letting the edges get some color. Add ketchup, chili sauce, and soy sauce. Once mixture starts to bubble, add cornstarch slurry while constantly stirring. Cook until thickened, then add meatballs, and stir to coat. Serve at once.
2. Swedish Meatballs
Meatballs can be juicy and tender or dry and tough depending on how you make them. With Swedish meatballs, the real secret is a bread and milk mixture called panade. It both adds and helps retain moisture as the meat cooks, resulting in the best flavor and texture. It’s also easy to make. Just pour the dairy over the bread, and let it sit.
You’ll find tons of recipes for Swedish meatballs on the web, each with slightly different combinations of meat and seasonings. Often, the ingredient list stretches to an absurd length. We like Alton Brown’s recipe, featured on Food Network, because it’s a great combination of easy and delicious.
- 2 slices fresh white bread
- ¼ cup milk
- 3 tablespoons clarified butter, divided
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- Pinch plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ pound ground chuck
- ¾ pound ground pork
- 2 large egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups beef broth
- ¼ cup heavy cream
Directions: Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Tear bread into small pieces, and set in a small bowl with the milk. Set aside.
In a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until onions are soft, then remove from heat.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine bread and milk mixture, chuck, pork, egg yolks, 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and cooked onions. Beat mixture on medium speed 1 to 2 minutes.
Using a scale, portion meatballs into 1-ounce portions and set on a sheet pan. Use your hands to shape meatballs into rounds.
Heat remaining butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat or an electric skillet set to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Add meatballs, and cook until golden on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon, and keep warm in the oven.
Decrease heat on skillet to low, and add flour to pan. Whisk until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth, and cook until beginning to thicken. Add cream, and continue to cook until you have the desired consistency. Cover meatballs with gravy, and serve.
3. Classic Meatballs
Like many Italian dishes, meatballs are surrounded by controversy. Every family makes theirs a little bit differently, and each thinks their version is the best, if not the most authentic. We don’t know if Saveur’s recipe is the best, but it’s definitely close. The meatballs are filled with prosciutto, fennel seeds, oregano, and chile flakes for a huge burst of flavor. With so much going on in the meat itself, a simple sauce is all you need to make them sing. It’s nothing more than wine, tomato purée, and some beef broth.
These meatballs are a great addition to a plate of pasta, though it’s not the most practical for a football game. Instead, serve some crusty bread on the side. You can make sandwiches, or just dunk it into the sauce.
- 10 ounces ground beef chuck or veal
- 10 ounces ground pork shoulder
- 2 ounces minced pork fat or unsmoked bacon
- 2 ounces prosciutto, minced
- 1¼ cups loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced, plus more
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 7 slices white bread, finely ground in the food processor
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ⅔ cup ricotta, drained in a strainer for 2 hours
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 4 cups canned tomato purée
- 1 cup beef or veal stock or water
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Directions: In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, pork fat, prosciutto, parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, chile flakes, cumin, allspice, and breadcrumbs. Season generously with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, mix ingredients until combined, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk ricotta, milk, and eggs to combine. Add to meat mixture, and mix gently to combine. Chill mixture for 1 hour.
Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil, and set aside. Using a 2-ounce scoop, portion mixture and roll into meatballs with your hands. Transfer meatballs to greased baking sheets. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 3-quart, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate, and wipe out skillet. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Return reserved meatballs and accumulated juices to the skillet, then add the wine. Increase heat to high, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and stock, bring to a boil, and tightly cover skillet. Transfer to the oven and bake until meatballs are tender and have soaked up some sauce, about 1½ hours. Serve meatballs with grated cheese and additional parsley.
4. Masala Meatball Curry
Take an Indian approach to meatballs with this simple recipe from BBC Good Food. Bold flavors like mint and curry paste ensure you get a flavorful dish without too many ingredients or too much work. You use the same pan for both the meatballs and the sauce, so you’ll also cut down on dishes. Skip the rice and serve this curry with pita to keep it more casual.
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 red chile, seeded
- 1 thick slice white bread
- 1 small pack of mint leaves, some leaves reserved
- 14 ounces ground lamb
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon masala curry paste
- 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
- 14 ounces lamb or chicken stock
- 3.5 ounces baby spinach leaves
- Cooked rice
Directions: Combine the garlic, chile, bread, and mint in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped, then transfer to a bowl with the lamb and egg. Season with salt. Using damp hands, shape into 16 meatballs.
Heat half the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Cook meatballs in batches over high heat until golden, and set aside.
Heat remaining oil in the same skillet. Add onion, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add curry paste, and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and stock, and bring to a simmer.
Add meatballs, and simmer 15 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Stir in the spinach just until wilted. Garnish with mint leave, and serve with rice and raita.
5. Pork Meatballs with Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce
If you’re entertaining friends, the last thing you want to do is wake up at the crack of dawn to get the food ready. Try Michael Symon’s Thai-inspired meatballs, which he shared on The Chew, to make things a little easier. The meatballs bake in the oven, giving you plenty of time to get everything else ready. Then, all you have to do is whisk together a simple lime sauce.
- 1½ pounds ground pork
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
- 2 teaspoons chopped lemongrass
- ½ carrot, grated
- 1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, grated
- 3 scallions, finely chopped
- ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped mint
- Breadcrumbs, as needed
- 3 tablespoons Thai chili paste
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, combine all meatball ingredients. Add more breadcrumbs if mixture seems wet. Drop rounded tablespoons onto a parchment paper-lined sheet tray. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk all sauce ingredients to combine. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve with meatballs.
6. Chicken Marsala Meatballs
Impress your food-obsessed friends without making the less adventurous folks uncomfortable by cooking a slightly more elegant meatball dish. This version from The Comfort of Cooking takes inspiration from chicken Marsala. The dish gets it’s name from the fortified wine used in the sauce. It comes in a variety of color and age classifications, which can be a little confusing. The most important thing to remember is to get a dry version because one of the sweet varieties will make your meatballs taste like dessert. Save that stuff for the tiramisu.
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 large egg
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup ricotta cheese or small-curd cottage cheese
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ⅓ cup minced onion
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 8 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced onion
- 1 cup dry Marsala
- Cooked pasta
- Chopped parsley
Directions: Line a large baking sheet with foil, and coat with nonstick cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine all meatball ingredients. Mix to combine, being as gentle as possible. Form mixture into 1½-inch meatballs using your hands. You should have about 25 meatballs. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Heat 1 cup olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook meatballs until golden all over and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove meatballs from pan using a slotted spoon, and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Discard remaining oil, and wipe pan clean. Use same skillet to heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion. Cook until softened and browned. Stir in Marsala, and cook until reduced to ½ cup, about 1 minute. Return meatballs to pan, and stir to coat. Serve with pasta and parsley.
7. Grilled Middle Eastern Meatballs
Grilling a burger is pretty standard, so why not try the technique with meatballs? Cooking over the grates adds a hint of smoky flavor that’s always welcome with beef. We like this za’atar-seasoned version from Food & Wine. Instead of keeping the meatballs round, you flatten them just a bit. This helps them cook faster and also keeps them from falling through the grates. Add a little dab of yogurt for a creamy finish to the dish.
- 1 pound ground chuck
- ½ small onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1½ teaspoons minced fresh mint
- 1½ teaspoons za’atar
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Bibb lettuce leaves
- Plain yogurt
Directions: Heat a grill to medium high. In a medium bowl, mix beef with onion, garlic, parsley, mint, za’atar, salt, cumin, and pepper. Form meat mixture into 1½-inch balls, and flatten into ¾-inch-thick patties.
Grill meatballs until just pink in the center, about 2 minutes per side. Serve meatballs in lettuce leaves with yogurt.