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Meatball Mania - The Secret's not in the Sauce, it's in the Meatball

Amazing Meatballs & Pasta — by David Smith
Amazing Meatballs & Pasta — by David Smith

Meatballs and Spaghetti, like the sun is to plants, so is the meatball to the pasta and sauce. I have made all three from scratch – noodles, sauce and meatballs. And I think the biggest standout is the meatball.

I have been cooking ever since I can remember. And I wrote this so I could use the words “rashers of bacon”. It is really a phrase we do not use enough.

Seriously though, I wrote this because I believe this simple recipe will allow you to make super-easy, homemade and absolutely amazing-tasting meatballs, period.

Everything I make is now a variation of something else I make. With the principles learned, one of the fundamental rules is – Bacon makes everything better, everything. I do not know why ice cream shops do not have bacon sprinkles.

For years, I had overlooked including bacon in my meatballs. The revelation would be like a new day had arrived, with vibrant sunbeams filling the sky. I would not be a new man, but I would be a better meatball maker.

Setting the Context - My Meatball Revelation

And the context was I had planned on hosting a dinner, like I regularly do with friends and family. Pasta is always a good thing to make because the sauce can be made ahead of time. And the noodles do not take too long to cook either. As long as I prepare ahead of time, it is fairly easy to feed a fairly large-sized crowd of 10-15 people. Forming the meatballs takes the longest and I have on occasion listed the help of meatballs makers. Not only have I needed help, but I have always wanted to encourage others to cook, even the professed “I can’t boil water” people.

So, I was planning a dinner for my friends and colleagues in South Korea. Dinner was going to be spaghetti and meatballs.

Pork is a very common meat in Korea. Dishes like Som-gip-sow, grilled pork belly, is found in many restaurants. It is absolutely deliciously, too. Subsequently, I had pork on the brain and I was shopping for the spaghetti dinner. I was going to do a mix of to 50% pork and 50% beef. And then I saw bacon and there it was. Laid out like a plan I always had and should have been doing. 40% pork, 40% beef, 20% bacon.

The meatball recipe I present herein is made only from ground pork, because that is what I had available. I would suggest adding beef or only using beef are very viable options, but do not forget the bacon. Maybe you have a good beef bacon, then use it as a substitute. But in my travels, I have only ever had one or two beef bacons that were delicious like their real pork counterparts. And I find turkey bacon insulting. Eat bacon or do not, but do not pretend like poultry can be a substitute.

7 Ingredients for Meatball Mania — by David Smith
7 Ingredients for Meatball Mania — by David Smith


10 Ounces of Meat (a little over half a pound or 300 grams)

3 Rashers of Bacon

½ Medium Onion

2-3 Sprigs of Fresh Parsley or Cilantro

10 Crackers (Saltines or Butter)

1 Tablespoon Dry Italian Herb Mix

1 egg

Makes about 18-20 meatballs of about a 1.5” (3 cm) diameter.

The recipe I made is the one in the pictures. I literally changed nothing from start to finish, so I know this meatball recipe works. It felt a little bit wet when I was mixing all of the ingredients, but the crackers absorb the moisture of the egg and it was delicious.

Parsley or cilantro for your Meatballs

The flavors of fresh herbs are great in any food you make. In the meatballs it adds to the overall flavor. I like to eat lots of parsley and cilantro and I use what is readily on hand. For this recipe and in the pictures of the meatballs, I used cilantro, but if you have parsley, it works great, too. Dried parsley will also usually be in the dry Italian Herb Mix.

The Chopped Ingredients — by David Smith
The Chopped Ingredients — by David Smith

Chopping, Crushing, Mixing

Chop the onion into medium to fine pieces. Too big and it will prevent the meatballs from sticking together. The same for the fresh herb, chop until relatively fine. Chop the bacon into small pieces as well.

Crush the crackers. An easy way to do that, is put them in a sealable plastic bag and smash them with a rolling pin until fine. I do not mind getting a little crumbly, so I just crushed them in between my fingers until they were of a fairly fine texture. They do not have to be perfect, smash any larger pieces individually.

Mixing and Making Meatballs

Take all of the ingredients and mix them together in a mixing bowl. Blend everything thoroughly together and let it sit for a few minutes so everything can mingle and the crackers can absorb the extra moisture.

Making the Meatballs — by David Smith
Making the Meatballs — by David Smith

Make the balls by grabbing a scoop about the size of a golf ball with the tips of your fingers and roll it around and press with your fingers and thumb to get it into a ball shape. It does not have to be perfect, but it should be compact. I prefer to grab more meat and take away, than to grab too little and add to it, the added meat will never stick like it was part of the original ball and is more likely to fall apart in the browning.

19 Delicious Meatballs — by David Smith
19 Delicious Meatballs — by David Smith

As you can see in the pictures, I was able to make 19 meatballs with this recipe. It is a good amount for a family of four, everybody gets about 5 meatballs.

Browning the Meatballs

How ever you decide to use your meatballs, brown them first. I have never liked larger meatballs because of one simple reason, the browning. Browning your meats, imparts them with incredible flavors. The smaller meatballs get more browning per weight than a larger ball. Stay small and brown them all.

Browning the Meatballs — by David Smith
Browning the Meatballs — by David Smith

The size of these meatballs ends up making about four sides to brown. I use tongs and I carefully go around the pan to maximize the browning for each meatball.

Fry them on medium for at least about 10-15 minutes, about 3-4 minutes a side.

Big Finish

If you want to use the meatballs directly on a sandwich, make sure you thoroughly cook them through, turn the heat down to low and let them just work on a slow sizzle. If you think they are finished, cut one open and check. The smaller size I suggested, also allows for quicker cooking times.

Ready to Eat Meatballs — by David Smith
Ready to Eat Meatballs — by David Smith

Otherwise, if you have a sauce you like to use, heat it up and let them mingle for a while. Make sure to transfer all of the ingredients from your frying pan into the sauce, every little browned nugget is wonderful flavor. Or better yet, save yourself a pan to clean and just put the sauce directly into the frying pan, turn on low and let it heat up. This is also where it is good if you can fry in a deeper pan that has a lid. Use the lid after you add the sauce, but not during the browning.

I hope you find these meatballs as delicious as I do. They are incredible.