Friday Recipe Exchange: Meatballs

tamara meatball subs
From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

A few weeks back I made meatball grinders – subs to most people – and was talking to my mom about them, because after all I used her recipe. She told me that one of her favorite things to do is to buy ground beef when it’s on sale and make and freeze a whole bunch of meatballs. Then they are available to make all kinds of good stuff, like meatball soup and various meatball sandwiches.

Until that moment, I hadn’t given meatballs much thought. I mean they’re good, but beyond the occasional grinder, I didn’t really use them. Then I went tripping around my own blog and found that JeffreyW had a whole bunch of meatball ideas. And that’s how we got to tonight’s recipe exchange idea: Meatballs!

I’ll post a basic meatball recipe below and include the grinder/sub recipe. But first, let me point you to both JeffreyW’s basic meatball recipe and how he’s used them:

“Not Your Mama’s Meatballs” (recipe here)

Meatball Soup (recipe here)

Couscous with Meatballs (recipe here)

For all of JefferyW’s meatball recipes, click here.

Your turn. Do you have a favorite meatball recipe? Beyond spaghetti and meatball subs, what do you use meatballs in? And does anyone have a good vegetarian meatball recipe? Hit the comments and share your ideas.

jeffreyw meatball scooper
Photo by JeffreyW
A quick tip, cookie scoops make meatball production easier and quick.

Now for the featured recipes:

This is a DOUBLE recipe that makes 8 to 10 subs, you can easily halve the ingredients or you can freeze extra meatballs and sauce for later.


2 lbs lean ground beef*
½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
½ onion, chopped
½ cup milk
1 egg
2 tbsp grated parmesan
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp crushed garlic
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp basil
baking sheet

Mix all ingredients together and mix well. You’re going make 1 ½ inch balls. The easiest way to do this is to use a cookie/muffin scoop (see photo above). Place on the baking sheet and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Don’t overcook, as they will finish in the sauce.

*For spicier meatballs you can substitute 1/4 to 1/2 of the ground beef with spicy Italian sausage.


4-15 oz cans tomato sauce
2-6 oz cans tomato paste
14 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tsp oregano, crushed
3 tsp basil, crushed
3 tsp crushed garlic
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated

In large saucepan or dutch oven, add ingredients, bring to a low boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add meatballs and stir gently. Let simmer for 10 minutes or longer.

Grinder/Sub Assembly:

8 large hoagie/sub rolls
2-4 oz parmesan cheese
8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
baking sheet

Slice rolls, but DO NOT slice completely in half. Place 4 to 6 meatballs in each roll, add lots of sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan and top with slices of mozzarella. Place on baking sheet, cheese side up and bake at 375° for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bread is toasty. Keep a good eye on it, they will burn quickly. Serve with lots of napkins.

NOTE: My mom has this trick of slicing out a wedge on the top of the rolls (instead of slicing them in half lengthwise) to make the pocket (see photo at top). Then they actually sit on their natural flat bottoms while baking. This has the added advantage of creating instant breadsticks from what is cut out that you can brush with olive oil and garlic and bake.

46 replies
  1. 1
    Anne Laurie says:

    When I hear “vegetarian meatball”, I think “falafel“.

    And then there’s kibbeh, which is basically a lamb meatball.

    No recipes to recommend, but using these keywords in a culinary database should spark some ideas…

  2. 2
    nellcote says:

    a question about silicon. Can I bake in silicon ice cube trays?

  3. 3
    Gravenstone says:

    @nellcote: Interesting idea. The silicone itself should be unaffected, assuming the trays are 100% silicone and not simply silicone coated rubber or somesuch. How what you intend to bake would behave in such small portions is another question.

  4. 4
    Yutsano says:

    Have a link to a really good meatball recipe that I’ll share when I get home tonight. It went over really well at work when I made it.

  5. 5
    Carnacki says:

    I make meatloaf and bake it in muffin tins because everyone in my family likes the crunchy bits. Then what ever is left over can be thrown into spaghetti sauce for meat balls or sliced into sandwiches to serve on potato rolls.

  6. 6

    We make and freeze a bunch of pesto. One of the ways we use it is in turkey meatballs. My wife started stuffing them with cubes of mozzarella and me likey very much.

  7. 7
    Anne Laurie says:

    Also too, from the eater’s side of the kitchen table: Try provolone cheese on those subs, instead of the mozzarella/parmesan mix. Delicious, still melts nicely, but doesn’t ‘drip’ as much when you’re taking bites.

  8. 8
    mainmati says:

    This is a great classic meatball recipe. I generally make my version also taking advantage of buying by volume and freezing. My recipe excludes ordinary American beef since it usually has been contaminated with growth hormones and other carcinogens. Instead, our family either uses organic beef, which is usually too expensive or a bison/pork combo, which is my go to for flavor. Here’s the recipe (which allows for variation, of course):

    Bison-Pork Meatballs

    1 lb ground bison meat
    1 lb ground pork
    1 slice of bread (challah, baguette, even multigrain but without crust and soaked in milk or buttermilk)
    1 small onion, chopped fine
    ½ cup milk (see bread above)
    1 egg
    3 tbsp grated Parmegianno
    ½ tsp salt
    ¼ tsp pepper
    1 Tb crushed garlic
    ½ tsp oregano
    ½ tsp smoked (Spanish) paprika
    baking sheet oiled with EVOO

    Squeeze out milk from bread. Mix all ingredients together and mix well. I agree withe rest of your procedure. “You’re going make 1 ½ inch balls. The easiest way to do this is to use a cookie/muffin scoop” (except I usually form by hand). Place on the oiled baking sheet and bake at 350° for 10 minutes (for me; I like them firm but still a little soft so that the sauce gets into them more).

    Your sauce is the classic and I wouldn’t much change it except that I usually add a little red wine (i/2 cup) and some chile pepper flakes to brighten the sauce (1/2 Tsp).

    For those not familiar with bison, it is usually grassfed and is lean so needs the ground pork to give it a bit more fat to make it meatball-yummy. It is not at all gamey and is perfectly fine by itself (e.g. fillets) if you cook it only up to medium rare.

  9. 9
    lojasmo says:

    Reuben meatballs

    Ground beef
    Ground pork
    Finely chopped Corned beef.
    Saurkraut, strained
    Swiss cheese, shredded (we use pepper jack)
    Carroway seeds
    Bread crumbs

    Mix and bake. Heavenly.
    I don’t have the proportions, because my wife is the cook. It’s readily available on line.

  10. 10
    Bruce S says:

    I don’t have the exact recipe at hand – I think my sister does – but my mom made meatballs similar to these, but using caraway seeds instead of fennel. Very, very good.

  11. 11
    Bruce Webb says:

    Rather an odd time to introduce meatball recipes given news out of Europe.

    On the other hand I guess there is never a wrong time to repeat the advice: “Source locally” and “know your butcher”.

    Because I might have questions on both fronts when told my meatballs came out of the freezer. Not because I am finicky but because explaining such things to younger nieces can lead to awkward moments if provenence isn’t solid.

  12. 12
    mainmati says:

    @Anne Laurie: Having spent a good bit of time working in the Middle East both falafel (or fil-fil as pronounced there) and kibbeh are delicious.

    Egyptian “Ta’amiya” is the great mid-morning (actually anytime) sandwich snack.

    Procedure: Warm a pita pocket that’s been sliced open (not entirely, just halfway). Take one half of the pita bread and slather 1 tb of hummus over it (can be flavored hummus- in Cairo often garlic flavored). Arrange 2-3 thinly sliced cucumber and tomato slices on the bread and sprinkle some salt and white pepper powder on them. Place the Ta’amiya (i.e. the fried falafel balls) over it. Now, drizzle about 1 tsp tahini all over this (shops use squirt bottles) and cover with the other half of the pita bread. Then eat while warm. It is soooooo good.

  13. 13
    22over7 says:

    Oh, thank you thank you for this thread! I’ve been making various kinds of meatballs for years, but have never yet found the perfect meatball that I crave.

    I’m trying jeffreyw’s recipe–it sounds exactly right.

  14. 14
    mainmati says:

    @lojasmo: I would think you would need at least two eggs to accommodate the sauerkraut but sounds worth trying. Thanks for the tip. Given the ingredients, I assume these meatballs are pretty salty, right?

  15. 15
    JenJen says:

    Meatball subs. The ideal meal. What gorgeous, delectable photos!

    Gawd, I’m hungry.

  16. 16
    freelancer says:

    I just made lasagna. I thought that was good.

    This looks SO much better!

  17. 17
    mainmati says:

    @nellcote: I know you can use them in microwaves so probably okay in relatively moderate oven (say up to 350 degrees). I personally wouldn’t use them for baking but that’s just me.

  18. 18
    YellowJournalism says:

    Here it is, Friday night, and all you guys are doing is sitting around here talking about your balls.

  19. 19
    mainmati says:

    @Carnacki: Brilliant idea. May I steal it?

  20. 20
    MonkeyBoy says:

    One of the times we were in Sweden we visited the upcountry during the off season. The town our hotel was in was mostly shut down and our dinner options were the hotel restaurant or the one other option, a Chinese restaurant, which on inspection had people in it as opposed to the dead hotel restaurant.

    Chinese restaurants always adopt local tastes and then try to convince you that they are exotic. One specialty in this place was sweet and sour Swedish meatballs. They also did things with reindeer meet.

    It wasn’t bad for a place in the middle of nowhere though I feel bad for the locals who think they know Chinese food.

  21. 21
    Anne Laurie says:


    Having spent a good bit of time working in the Middle East both falafel (or fil-fil as pronounced there) and kibbeh are delicious.

    So true! But I am cooking-challenged, and fortunate enough to live in area with lots of Armenian/Lebanese/Syrian/Greek restaurants, so I am happy to support my neighborhood small businesses.

  22. 22
    Arm The Homeless says:

    The fiance and I love these Veggieballs pan fried in the cast iron on medium high. I am so going to try them as grinders with haloumi next time.

  23. 23
    Arm The Homeless says:

    Oh yeah, I also replace the ricotta with small curd cottage cheese. It’s amazing with much less fat

  24. 24
    maven says:

    Ok. There’s probably only so far you are going to go with this……….

  25. 25
    dance around in your bones says:

    My tummy is growling.

  26. 26
    James E. Powell says:

    I’ve been doing this ‘meatless weekend’ thing for a while now, but that photo is giving me the kind of longing that one feels for his youth.

  27. 27
    beergoggles says:

    Don’t tell any Scotsman this, but you can make Lorne Sausage spiced meatballs (sorta healthy).
    – 1lb 80% lean ground beef
    – 1 pack silken tofu
    – 1 tsp garlic powder
    – 1 tsp nutmeg
    – 1 tsp mace
    – 1 tsp black pepper
    – 1 tbsp salt
    – 1 cup fine bread crumbs

    Mix the beef, bread crumbs and the spices well. Whip the silken tofu and then mix it in with the beef mixture. Form into meatballs and broil on high for 15 minutes. The meatballs you get from this are light and airy – almost like beef puffs.

    They are amazingly good with HP sauce for dipping. For anyone unfamiliar with brit condiments, HP sauce is what real steak sauce should be.

    And that Reuben meatballs someone posted upthread – I am so going to try that – it sounds downright droolworthy.

  28. 28
    Dee Loralei says:

    I make meatballs very similar to Jeffrey’s. But I often stuff mine with fresh mozzarella pearls. I make a bunch of them and freeze them for raw for other meals. So spaghetti and meatballs, sliders and sometimes I’ll slice a few for a pizza. Sometimes I add some to a minestrone with the Italian sausage, pepperoni, veggies, pasta, broth etc. I call that one “Manistroni” because it really really sticks to your ribs.

    Made with chicken or ground turkey you can make an albondingas soup or as an appetizer with an almond/pepper sauce. I think pretty much every culture has a meatball in it.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    lojasmo says:


    They certainly require no added salt.

  31. 31
    TS says:


    I make meatloaf and bake it in muffin tins because everyone in my family likes the crunchy bits. Then what ever is left over can be thrown into spaghetti sauce for meat balls or sliced into sandwiches to serve on potato rolls.

    And that is thinking outside of the loaf pan – thanks for the tip

  32. 32
    Tom Levenson says:

    Was recently given Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jersualem cookbook.

    My former pro-chef wife and I have been working through it, and there are a bunch of really lovely meatball recipes there. Favorite so far “lamb with barberries, yogurt and herbs.”

    That said, I’m heading for the lemony leek ones next.

    And while we don’t make traditional meatballs that often, we do construct burgers out of a mixture that also does well in the smaller form factor: a mixture of equal parts ground beef, veal and lamb with a bunch of other stuff thrown in (varies depending on whats at hand). If the market doesn’t have ground veal (which it doesn’t every time) a 50-50 lamb – 85% ground beef mixture is just fine.

  33. 33
    General Stuck says:

    I’m picking up a likeness of Jesus in that meatball to the left. Or it could be Elvis before he got fat.

  34. 34
    Yutsano says:

    As promised. Devilishly tasty.

  35. 35
    TaMara (BHF) says:

    @Arm The Homeless: Thank you! These are exactly what I was looking for and can’t wait to try them. Grazie.

    To everyone else, thanks for showing up and sharing your ideas. That’s the whole reason I do this.

  36. 36
    hamletta says:

    Y’all, these meatballs are sooo good.

    Next time I make them, I’ll add in an egg, though. They were a little mushy. But I still nommed on the leftovers for days.

  37. 37
    hamletta says:

    @nellcote: Probably, but I wouldn’t do meatballs in them, or muffin tins, either. You wind up braising the meat in its own juices and fat.

    Wait…that sounds kinda good. Carry on.

  38. 38
  39. 39
    Betty Cracker says:

    I like this meatball recipe that I got from an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. But I’m gonna have to try @Arm The Homeless’ veggie version for my vegetarian teenager.

  40. 40
    greenergood says:

    Tuna balls! from Jamie Oliver – he uses 14 oz fresh tuna steak, which he cuts in cubes, and sautes in olive oil and then squishes to a pulp, but we don’t see fresh tuna steak very often and it’s expensive. Tinned tuna works okay
    2 tins tuna in spring water
    2 oz pine nuts
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp dry oregano
    salt and pepper
    handful flat-leaf parsley chopped fine
    3 1/2 oz breadcrumbs
    2 oz grated fresh parmesan
    2 eggs, beaten
    zest and juice of a lemon

    Lightly toast the pine nuts – then throw everything in a bowl and mix it all up. Make individual tuna balls; if you dip one hand in cold water every few balls, you’ll get a nice smooth surface. Place on an oiled tray and put in the fridge for an hour. Then add to a frying pan with olive oil and jiggle till they’re golden brown. Serve with homemade tomato sauce and pasta.

  41. 41
    SteveTGrav says:

    Bob Dylan’s meatballs are the best I’ve ever made.;t=26850

  42. 42
    Karma Gyurme says:

    This stuff will kill you, and the environment.

    Take a look around.

  43. 43
    joel hanes says:

    R. Crumb from Zap #2 :

    meatball doesn’t work that way

  44. 44
    Shana says:

    @Tom Levenson: I made the lemony leek ones recently and they were terrific. Enjoy!

  45. 45
    Yutsano says:

    @Karma Gyurme: In the end, we’re all dead anyway.

  46. 46
    Bruce S says:

    @Bruce Webb:

    “Rather an odd time to introduce meatball recipes given news out of Europe.”

    Hey, meatballs are the perfect austerity recipe. Or…uh…is there some other news out of Europe that hasn’t made it into Paul Krugman’s blog. Oh, wait a minute…

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