A good meatball is tender, never tough. The key to making a tender meatball is to use an appropriate amount of breadcrumbs. You can use beef, pork, or veal for your meatballs, but again, if you do not use enough bread, they will be tough. Grandma Rose used to make a meatball solely out of bread, and called them breadballs. Oh My God were they heavenly! Hopefully I can track that recipe down and put it here for you. In the meantime, you will have to make due with these meatballs. I think you will like them. For those who have asked, yes this is indeed a very authentic recipe (with maybe the exception of the pre-seasoned progresso breadcrumbs, but you can use plain or homemade and add your own parsley and garlic if you are waxing nostalgic). Typical italian ricette for polpette al forno call for 500 grams of carne and about 100-200 grams of pane grattugiato and 100 grams of latte.
1 pound of ground meat
3/4 cup of Progresso Italian style breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (or Parmesan or Asiago…use your favorite)
1 teaspoon of salt
fresh ground black pepper
Before you do anything add the milk to the breadcrumbs in a small bowl and stir them up. Set aside for a few minutes and allow the bread to completely soak up the milk. Do NOT skip this step, it is essential.
Next, add the bread/milk mixture, one egg, salt, pepper, and cheese to the ground meat. Mix it very well by hand. You will hear some people say that over mixing will make a tough meatball. I find just the opposite to be true. The less mixed a meatball, the tougher it tends to be. The secret lies in using enough bread to soften the meat. If you use about 3/4 cup of bread per 1lb of meat, you can mix all you want…you will get a tender meatball.
After the meat is well mixed, I roll them into golf-ball sized meatballs. (I am not a fan of giant meatballs, and usually go smaller. When I make gnocchi, I actually make my meatballs about marble size so you can get a bite of gnocchi with meatball at the same time). I place the meatballs on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
I cover them with foil and bake them for 45 minutes on 350 degree in the oven. After 45 minutes, I cook them uncovered (remove the foil) for another ten minutes to firm the outside up a little and get some browning on the meatballs in general.
A few thoughts and tips here.
If you keep your hands wet, the meatball meat will not stick to your hands. It will be very easy and clean to roll them.
Despite what everyone would have you believe, frying meatballs is time consuming, messy, and completely unnecessary. I get better results in the oven and less work and far less cleanup.
This recipe can be doubled or tripled, or whatever to accommodate your needs.