I love meatballs of all kinds and have a few different recipes on my blog including my favorite to serve over pasta with my marinara sauce. If you would like a spicy recipe to use as an appetizer check out David Lebovitz’s recipe.
I recently looked through Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s “My Perfect Pantry” cookbook and ran across his meatball version with pureed onions. With my love for onions I had to try his recipe, plus the ingredients include two cheeses! Geoffrey also uses a combination of veal and pork and no beef which I later found out was a mistake in terms of flavor.
I used his ingredients except I cut back the water amount when pureeing with the onions/garlic. The meat mixture would have been too sloppy otherwise and not hold together. You could also boil, roast or bake the onions instead of using raw ones like Geoffrey did.
Our recipes are similar but different at the same time. I did change the method of cooking. Geoffrey fries his meatballs and finishes them off in the oven or marinara sauce. I always bake mine – just don’t like the idea of messy, fried meatballs – besides it’s healthier! Then I finished cooking in my marinara sauce.
Comment: I made these meatballs awhile ago and before I had a chance to post this recipe I learned something new. I already was suspicious of the reason for the lack of flavor in the meatballs. After reading Kenji’s “Food Lab” I found out “beef provides robust flavor, pork provides a good amount of tender fat and veal provides plenty of gelatin to help retain moisture”. These meatballs did not have any beef and the veal definitely diluted the meaty flavor! Thank goodness for my delicious marinara sauce.
Forget the “meatloaf mixture” – buy beef and pork separately the next time you make your meatloaf. Don’t bother with the veal!
With this in mind it is better to use a combination of beef and pork and add gelatin in place of the veal. Kenji suggests adding 2 tbsp. unflavored gelatin hydrated in a bit of chicken stock and cooled until dissolved.
I have noted the changes in the recipe below…
Meatballs With Pureed Onions and Two Cheeses, Adapted
- 1 large onion, cut into chunks
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 cup water (I cut back to 1/2 cup – add only enough to get a good consistency)
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 lb. ground veal (substitute beef)
- 2 tbsp. unflavored gelatin hydrated in a bit of chicken broth until dissolved (optional)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated and more for serving
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, freshly grated
- 1-1/2 cups unseasoned fresh bread crumbs (see Homemade Fresh Breadcrumbs)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- additional seasonings such as basil or oregano (optional)
- serve over a pasta of your choice (bucatini is my favorite)
- 1 recipe marinara sauce
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Process the onion, garlic, and water in a food processor and puree until very smooth. Don’t add too much water, only enough to achieve a good consistency.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, veal, eggs, parmesan, romano, bread crumbs, parsley, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add only enough onion puree and with your hands, mix until just combined.
Form into 24 meatballs. Normally I use a stainless steel scoop but because the mixture was soft I used my hands. Don’t overwork the mixture as the meatballs should be light and soft.
I read somewhere that you can microwave meatballs for 5 minutes to set the exterior and keep them from falling apart. Precooking also renders some of the fat.
You can fry the meatballs for more flavor but I chose to bake them.
Place meatballs on a rack (spray first with cooking spray to prevent sticking) on a large baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes prior to baking. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the meatballs are almost cooked through. Either cook longer in the oven or simmer in a marinara sauce for an additional 30 minutes.
Recipe by cookingwithauntjuju.com