No doubt you have already realized that one of my life’s pursuits is to make the perfect meatballs. I don’t just mean Italian style – I mean all of them. Big, small, Swedish, veggie, sweet and sour, cocktail; you name it.
Recently I was inspired to get the polenta out of my cabinet and actually try making it. The original recipe of inspiration had a delicious chuck roast done Osso Bucco style on top of the polenta. When I was at the store I just didn’t see any chuck roast under 13 lbs and that is just too much even for professional eaters like me and my husband. The ground pork was on sale and besides I had been craving meatballs ever since I watch Alex Guarnaschelli make her crispy, spicy ones on her “day off.” Than I noticed the zucchini was on sale too.
As they say in sports talk “now we have ourselves a ballgame!”
Spicy, pork meatballs with sautéed zucchini in a light tomato sauce over Parmesan sage polenta.
Now I don’t want to brag or anything, but these meatballs were the best I ever had. Just the right level of spice for us – probably not hot enough for the heat-lovers among us – but enough to get the idea without overwhelming the dish. The addition of sour cream to the meatball mix was a genius tip from Alex. But the rest was all my creation. I added a little ground beef chuck to “up” the fat and flavor because I find that ground pork can still be a little too lean unless you are grinding your own from a fatty cut. I was not on this day.
I fried these in a generous amount of olive oil. And this time while I was frying them all crispy – I stayed close to make sure they didn’t burn! I like small meatballs in general and I made these extra small (1/2″ to an 1″ diameter) so they could be fully cooked in the pan frying. I worked patiently in batches and kept them in a warm (200 degree) oven while I sautéed the sliced zucchini, a little diced onion and added some light, fresh, chunky style tomato sauce to the pan.
The meatball recipe
1.5 to 1.75 lbs of ground meat (I used a 2:1 ration of pork to beef)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili flakes (more if you like)
1/2 cup sour cream (low-fat if you feel you must)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup bread crumbs, toasted (plain or seasoned would be fine)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup +/- fresh herbs chopped (I used fresh sage and flat leaf parsley – but your favorites would be fine)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for frying
Mix all but the olive oil together using clean hands until just combined. Keep hands damp and form meatballs sized 1/2″ to 1″ in diameter. Fry on med-high heat in batches, in plenty of olive oil in a saute pan. Don’t use a non-stick if possible as the crust on the meatballs won’t form as well. Be generous with the olive oil keeping at least 1/8″ deep in pan. Turn the balls gently and frequently to keep them round and evenly browned. I went about 12-16 mins total for each batch of meatballs. The larger the ball the longer the fry time and the heat must be moderated. Tip: Fry one meatball first to test for seasoning and fry time before forming the rest of the balls. Also these can be done ahead, cooled and refrigerated or if to be used right away keep cooked batches warm in a 200 degree oven in a loosely covered dish. Makes about 50-55 balls.