Chosen Bites: Simply does it
To craft the “Perfect Meatball” you’ll need some good quality meat, a moistening panade and a couple of light, wet hands.
The Perfect Meatball Photo: Laura Frankel
Forget the carbs and extra courses. Sometimes, you just want a simple and
satisfying meatball, with a tasty sauce. I crave simplicity on weeknights and
often, I just want a really tasty, homey meatball with a big dollop of warm and
welcoming marinara sauce. I don’t want to over think sides and salads.
trick to a great meatball starts with the meat. If the meat is too lean, the
meatball will be dry and tough. If it is too fatty, the meatball will be
I like to use either ground turkey or ground beef. To add
moisture and a little fat to my mix, I use a panade. A panade is a French term
that refers to a starch base with liquid and flavoring added. The point of a
panade in meatballs or meatloaf is to add moisture and to keep the meat from
shrinking and becoming too tight. A nice loose mixture of wine or chicken stock
soaked breadcrumbs with some tasty olive oil and herbs keeps the ground meat
from contracting and squeezing out all the juice. Genius.
secret to a perfect meatball is not to handle the meat too much. This makes the
meatball tough and dense. I want my meatball to be light and moist. I form my
meatballs with damp hands. I gently roll the meat mixture between damp hands and
then I leave it alone.
The perfect meatball
2 cloves garlic,
grated on a microplane
2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds
1 generous pinch of
crushed red chili flakes
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons white wine or
chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt and
½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
pound ground beef or turkey
1. Add all of the ingredients in a medium bowl,
except for the meat or turkey. Mix the panade until combined.
2. Add the
meat or turkey and very gently, stir to combine.
3. With wet hands, form
the mixture into three large and gorgeous meatballs. Be careful not to press the
4. Chill the meatballs while you make marinara sauce.
This will help the meat and panade to become “one.”
the jarred stuff; you can make your own sauce in just a few minutes. You are in
control of quality and salt content when you take a few minutes to put together
a quick and inexpensive sauce.
3 cloves of garlic, sliced very
½ teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
can whole plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands
Pinch of sugar, if needed
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat a medium
saucepan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium heat.
2. Add the
garlic and chili flakes. Cook the mixture for about a minute until the garlic is
fragrant but not all browned. Add the tomato paste and “fry” the tomato paste
for about a minute. This makes the paste taste fresh and fruity.
the canned tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the thyme and simmer the sauce for
about 15 minutes. Taste the sauce and if it needs sugar, add a bit.
like to finish my sauce with a good “glug” of tasty extra virgin olive oil. I
turn off the heat and add the oil. The oil makes the sauce fruity and freshens
up the sauce. Remember - tomatoes and olives are fruit.
5. Preheat oven
to 162 C.
6. Preheat a medium sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil,
over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Place the sauté
pan in the oven and cook until the meatballs are cooked through (about 15
7. Spoon the sauce over the meatballs to catch all the pan
drippings and brown bits and serve.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.