Saturday, June 8, 2013

Giant Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

I am a huge fan of meatballs, and these were no exception.  Rather than the usual pairing with spaghetti, these meatballs are big enough to stand on their own with some crusty bread on the side.  The whole dish sort of reminded me of deconstructed meatball subs - so much fun!

Although these meatballs were really delicious, making them was kind of a pain.  The meatballs really are giant - 1/4 pound each, or the size of a hamburger.  I initially thought this would make them easy - less meatballs to roll - but it turns out that giant meatballs don't really like to hold their shape in a frying pan!  This particular meatball mixture is pretty wet - and while this meant the final meatballs were moist and not-at-all dried out, they also ended up pretty misshapen!  These were good enough to make again, but next time I would use less liquid, and would also use a lower temperature to brown the meat - they were tricky to get in the pan and flip, and burned easily, so there wasn't a lot of time to fuss around with them.  A firmer meat mixture and lower temperature should solve both of these problems.

Despite the fact that the meatballs ended up sort of flattened and some of them got a bit burned, they were still super tasty!  They combined really well with the simple homemade marinara, and were perfect with crusty bread from our local student co-op.  The leftovers held up well, so I recommend making extras so you have some for lunch or dinner the next day.

Giant Meatballs in Marinara Sauce (adapted from What's for Dinner?: Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life)
Serves 4

For the sauce:
3 T olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 large sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup loosely packed torn fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the meatballs:
2 ounces cubed crustless Italian or French bread
2/3 cup reduced-fat (2%) milk [I would reduce this to 1/3 cup next time]
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 T chopped fresh thyme
2 T Dijon mustard
2 tsp kosher salt
1-1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 large egg
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

1. Make the sauce.  Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the oil.  When the oil is hot, add the shallots and garlic, and cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes.  Add the thyme and the white wine and let reduce for a minute or so.
2. Add the tomatoes, crushing them up as you go. Bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the thyme, and puree the tomatoes with a stick blender if you want a smoother sauce.  Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper.
3. While the sauce simmers, make the meatballs.  Combine the bread and milk in a large bowl, and let sit for five minutes.  Mush up the bread with your hands, and then add the shallots, garlic, parsley, thyme, mustard, salt, paprika, and egg.  Mix until everything is well combined.  Add the ground meats, and gently mix with your hands until everything is combined.  Form into 8 large meatballs.
4. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the oil.  When it's hot, add the meatballs (working in batches - I could fit in 4 meatballs at a time) and cook, turning occasionally, for about 12 minutes, or until browned all over. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off any excess oil.
5. When the sauce is ready, add the meatballs and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.
6. Spoon the meatballs and sauce into serving bowls, top with cheese, and serve hot.


  1. I hope it's not weird to crave meatballs at 7:20am because this has done just that to me.

  2. This looks awesome. I have to try it!

  3. I've just had breakfast and already craving for a hearty meatball lunch!

  4. One tip Sara is to freeze your meatballs for about 15 minutes before cooking - they will hold their shape while getting a nice crust. I love balls but my husband doesn't. :D

    1. Awesome - I will definitely try that next time to avoid my weird-shaped meatballs! :) Thanks for the tip!