Have you ever wondered what to make in case a dozen hungry people show up at your house? Me neither. But I do love a conveniently portioned and frozen food item at the ready, especially one that I have made myself. A bulk batch of meatballs fits this bill to a “T”. Forty, perfectly portioned 2-ounce meatballs sitting in your freezer – just waiting to be dropped in simmering marinara sauce or even popped in the microwave and then shoved into a crusty sandwich roll.
This recipe started at Cooks Illustrated, and then got on a bit of a diet and made some compromises – (“halfway happy”… anyone? Don’t tell me you read the word “compromise” and your might doesn’t go immediately to Stranger Things.) I dropped the added gelatin both because I never could get it to incorporate well and because I always forget to buy it. Then I swap in sweet italian sausage for the ground pork to bring a ton more flavor.
Like Cooks Illustrated, I keep the prosciutto and the buttermilk. The food scale is your friend when you portion these out. By the end, you’ll be able to grab a chunk that is exactly 2 ounces every time… practice makes perfect. Using baking racks lets a lot of the fat render off, but I have found that putting the meatballs directly on a foil-covered sheet pan works just fine, as long as you give it a little cooking spray ahead of time. One less thing to clean later. I apologize now if these set off your smoke detector 🙁
Freezer Food – At the Ready. Also, Meatballs.Difficulty: Easy
Yield: ~40 Meatballs. Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
2 1/4 C Panko Breadcrumbs (170g / 3oz)
1 1/2 C Buttermilk (360ml)
3 Lg Eggs
3 Cloves Garlic; Minced or Grated
4 oz Prosciutto; Chopped Fine (113g)
3 oz Parmesan Cheese; Finely Grated (85g)
1/3 C Fresh Parsley; Chopped (5g / .25oz)
2 Lbs 80/20 Ground Chuck* (905g / 32oz)
1 Lb Sweet Italian Sausage; Casings Removed (450g / 16oz)
Salt and Pepper
- Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two Rimmed Baking Trays with Foil and fit with Wire Racks or spray lightly with Cooking Spray. Set aside.
- In a Large Mixing Bowl, combine the Panko and Buttermilk. Allow to stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed and a thick paste has formed. Use this time to collect and prepare your remaining ingredients.
- Add the Eggs, Garlic, Prosciutto, Parmesan, and Parsley to the Panko mixture. Stir well to combine and break up the Prosciutto, which has a tendency to clump.
- Add the Ground Chuck and the Italian sausage. Using your hands, mix thoroughly.
- Using a food scale, measure out 2 ounce meatballs (57g / 1/4 C). Gently press into a ball and place on prepared baking trays. The meatballs can sit close together, but don’t let the touch. You will have about 40 meatballs. When you are done portioning, you can rearrange the meatballs evenly over both sheet trays.
- Roast at 450° for about 30 minutes, until evenly browned. Halfway through roasting, rotate your trays, top to bottom and front to back to encourage even baking.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to sauce if you are using immediately. Or you can allow the meatballs to cool to room temperature and transfer to freezer bags.
- Meatballs will last a couple of days in the fridge and up to 4 months in the freezer. You don’t have to defrost, just put the meatballs directly into simmering sauce and allow to warm through.
- *Ground Chuck that is 20% fat is best here, however if you want to go with a leaner meat, you can. The resulting meatballs will not be as moist.
2 Rimmed Baking Sheets
2 Wire Baking Racks
Large Mixing Bowl