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Making mouthwatering meatballs – it’s all gravy

–by Jennifer Ruple

On top of spaghetti all covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball, well… you know the rest. Make sure you hang on to those meatballs because March 9 is National Meatball Day, and meatball lovers have some celebrating to do!

Because of their versatility, meatballs are found in almost every culture. From Italian-style meatballs served in red sauce over pasta to Swedish meatballs served in a creamy gravy and Asian meatballs served in soup or Ramen, the popularity of meatballs spans the globe.

Besides being hearty and protein-packed, meatballs have many attributes that make them so desirable – they are relatively inexpensive to make, they can be prepared a day or two ahead of time (and often better then), and they need little attention once they are cooked. Most importantly, they are a classic comfort food that reminds us of grandma’s house.

To find out how to make the most scrumptious meatballs, I checked in with local meatball-making experts to gather some of their tricks of the trade.

Bruce Rahe, culinary partner and chef for 5th Street Pub’s Sylvania and Perrysburg locations, recommends using a higher

fat content meat for meatballs. “Use a 75/25 ratio for beef, and if using chicken, thigh meat would be ideal.” Rahe advises to use fresh herbs and spices, “This makes a huge difference in the taste and flavor of the meatball as opposed to dried herbs.” Rahe said that fresh garlic is the way to go. “The pre-minced products will work, but nothing will beat a fresh clove of garlic. As it cooks, it will release its juices and flavor into the meatball.” His final tip is to mix the ingredients well to ensure that each meatball will have even flavor.

Liz Donaldson, assistant chef at Walt Churchill’s Market in Maumee, noted that the best flavor in meatballs comes from using Pecorino Romano cheese as opposed to Parmesan. She prefers to use Locatelli brand. “It’s got saltiness that you can’t get with Parmesan.” Donaldson also pointed out the importance of eggs in the process. “They keep the meatballs really moist and act as a binder.”

At Ciao! Ristorante in Sylvania, General Manager Terry Kretz ensures a softer meatball by soaking the bread crumbs in milk until they are soft before adding them to the meat mixture. “I roll the meat into 2-ounce balls, put them on a parchment covered pan and bake them in a preheated convection oven at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes.”

Here are a few recipes from our meatball experts to try at home.


5th Street Pub’s Meatball Hoagie

Italian Beef Meatballs
1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh parsley or basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients thoroughly and roll into the size of golf balls. Cook at 375 F for 10-12 minutes.

Turn the meatballs and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Cooking times may vary depending on your oven. Make sure they have a nice golden brown color on the outside to prevent them from becoming mushy in the next step.

Add meatballs to your favorite tomato sauce and simmer for 1 hour.

(Recipe by Bruce Rahe, culinary partner and chef, 5th Street Pub, Sylvania and Perrysburg)


Chicken Meatballs created by Liz Donaldson

Chicken Meatballs
1 ½ pounds ground chicken
2 large eggs
½ cup onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup fresh parsley, minced
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
½ cup Pecorino Romano
Canola oil or olive oil for browning

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients. Roll into balls, about 2 inches in diameter.

In a Dutch oven, heat oil. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Drain the oil, add 1 cup of water and cover. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
Or place in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes.

(Recipe by Liz Donaldson, assistant chef at Walt Churchill’s Market, Maumee)

Pork and Veal Meatballs at Ciao! Ristorante

Pork and Veal Meatballs
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
3 ounces milk
2.5 ounces Japanese-style bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ tablespoon kosher salt
½ tablespoon ground black pepper
1 ¼ tablespoons olive oil

In a large pan, sauté the shallots and garlic in olive oil. Soak the bread crumbs in milk until soft.

In the bowl of a mixer, add all ingredients and mix with a paddle attachment for 4-5 minutes or until well combined.

Roll meat into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper covered sheet pan. Bake in a preheated convection oven at 350 F for 20-25 minutes.

(Recipe from Terry Kretz, district manager at Mainstreet Ventures, Inc. and general manager at Ciao! Ristorante in Sylvania)

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