Ode to a Meatball
Known as ballekes in Belgium, Bakso in Indonesia and Polpette in Italy, meatball variations are enjoyed around the world. In general a meatball is ground meat mixed with a grain and/or vegetable, spices, possibly a thickener, and served with a sauce. There are several explanations for the creation of the delicious meatball. They help to distribute meat to a larger amount of people since they are mixed with other ingredients. Meatballs are also a good way to use up leftover meat before it goes bad. It is also possible meatballs were created to make tough meat more palatable and digestible. Whatever the case, it seems they were always delectable. The earliest recorded recipe was found in Apicius from Ancient Rome. The recipe included ground meat, white bread soaked in wine, pepper, garum, myrtle berries and pine nuts. Yum! We can be grateful to that recipe for the vast array of meatball recipes available to us today!
For the meat and meat-free eaters out there here are some tips to use when making healthy meatballs and two recipes we love.
- Use lean protein as the base. We love bison, turkey, chicken, and beans
- Skip the breadcrumbs and use cooked or dry grains. Cooked grains like quinoa and millet work well if you are baking your meatballs. Dried grains like bulgur work well if you are simmering the meatballs in a liquid or sauce to cook.
- Add veggies…pureed veggies will add flavor, nutrition and color.
- Skip frying…simmer your meatballs in a sauce or poaching liquid or bake them in the over.
- Meatballs are for more than just pasta—serve over grains, on a sandwich or on a toothpick as as appetizer.
Veggie Patch Panko Meatless Meatballs (pictured)
- One package (about 20) Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 6 tablespoons liquid egg whites (2 large egg whites)
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs, ideally whole grain
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 20 tooth picks, optional
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with oil.
Place Meatless Meatballs in a microwave safe dish, cover with wet paper towel and cook on high for 45 seconds. Set aside.
Place flour in a shallow dish or on a plate.
Place egg whites in a bowl next to the flour.
In a third shallow dish or on a paper plate, combine the Panko crumbs with the Parmesan cheese.
Roll each Meatless Meatball in the flour, shaking off excess, then the egg whites, and then the Panko mixture.
Press the breading evenly onto each Meatball.
Place breaded Meatballs on the sprayed baking sheet and bake for 5 to 10 minutes.
Turn Meatballs over once, then return to oven for another 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.
Insert skewer, if using, and serve with warm marinara dipping sauce.
Greek Bison and Bulgur Meatballs
- 2 pounds lean ground bison
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup coarse bulgur
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons shredded carrot
- 1 scallion, peeled
- ¼ cup chopped red pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt and pepper
- 4 cups of tomato sauce
- 1 cinnamon stick
In a food processor, combine parsley through cumin and puree. In a large bowl, combine the meat with the egg mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Shape 2-tablespoon-sized portions of the meat mixture into balls.
In a large sauce pan, add the tomato sauce and the cinnamon sticks. Simmer. Add the meatballs, cover and continue to simmer for 20-30 minutes or until meatballs are cooked and bulgur is tender.