Those of you who know me well know that I am a huge fan of Chef Gordon Ramsay. His show Kitchen Nightmares is one of my guilty pleasures, because it's largely the same story every episode. Chef Ramsay is invited to "help" a struggling restaurant fix all their problems and become a profitable business. Most of the time the restaurant kitchens are disgusting and to go along with that there are typically some kind of dramatic dysfunctional relationships between the owners and/or staff.
Now, I'm a fan of Chef Ramsay, so I tend to give him a pass on hyperbole, but just about every episode is "the most disgusting thing" he's ever seen, and the "worst food" he's ever tasted. Pepper in a bit of British slang and some curse words, and you've essentially seen almost every episode.
The episode I'm thinking of this evening follows twin brothers running an Italian food joint in Cleveland. These guys were like the saddest real life Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum you can imagine. Over the course of the episode, Chef Ramsay learns that they have no clue about food safety, and they bring in frozen meatballs to serve their customers. He is absolutely shocked that they don't make their own meatballs from scratch seeing as it's "easy" and by the end of the episode he's got them in the streets shouting "We have home-made meatballs!" to bring in customers.
|The Tweedles and Chef Ramsay|
Now, don't get me started on how food made at a restaurant is not technically "home-made" unless the chef is also living there... but this got me thinking, if it's so easy, I should know how to make truly home-made meatballs.
So, I set out to learn how to make meatballs, and the truth is, it is easy. At this point, I don't really measure any of the seasonings that go into my meatballs, but I can give you a basic idea. I think everyone has their own taste anyway so give it a try and see what you like, and what you might like a little more or less of in your mix.
We've been having a game night with a local friend of ours every other week, and I started making cheese stuffed meatballs for our dinner that night. They've been a huge hit, so our guest -- being that he's a super considerate guy -- started bringing us some pasta sauce and ground turkey when he comes over for game night. Usually I make two meals worth of meatballs out of a 1lb package of ground turkey, but our friend didn't know that, so he brought us a 3lb package instead.
Queue the dramatic cooking show music, because it's time to make an unusually large batch of meatballs. My apologies in advance for some of the blurry photos below.
|Here's all the stuff. In retrospect I should have used a larger bowl.|
- 3 lbs ground turkey
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 8-12 sticks of string cheese (I like Frigo)
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp each of parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, paprika
- 2 tsp each of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper
Fresh minced garlic to taste
Cracked black pepper
More crushed red pepper or other fresh chili paste like Sambal Oelek if you like spicy meatballs
I wear nitrile gloves while making this because I like to really get in the mix and make sure it's all homogeneous before making the giant meatball into tiny meatballs, but I hate getting raw meat on my bare hands.
|The cheese stands alone... sort of.|
First, cut up your cheese sticks. I like to cut each stick into the same number of pieces, because this will determine how many meatballs I need to make with each third (or quarter, however your brain does meat and cheese math best) of my meat mix.
|Giant bowl of meat|
I divided my giant meatball into three smaller giant meatballs. Then each smaller giant meatball into 32 regular sized meatballs.
|Running out of room for all my balls|
After they were all done, I put them between layers of wax paper in a sheet pan that fits in my freezer. Once they're all frozen, move them into plastic ziplock bags.
|Finally done, 96 meatballs|
They will keep in the freezer for quite a while, and all you have to do to cook them after that is brown them quickly in a little olive oil in a skillet on the stove, then add some of your favorite pasta sauce to the pan. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes to make sure they're cooked all the way through, then serve over pasta.
When I prepare this for everyone, I like to put veggies in mine instead of 2/3 of the regular serving of pasta I give everyone else. Mine is on the left, it's six meatballs with diced steamed zucchini and a fist full of arugula.
If you try your hand at making meatballs for the first time, I'd love to see and hear about your experiences! Feel free to share in the comments below!