Sometimes you’re just going along with life, thinking everything is swell and then something happens that shows you how much you’ve been missing. That was kind of the sentiment after I took a bite of these Panko-Crusted Meatballs. Hmmmnn… that’s coming across as negative and I certainly don’t mean to be. How’s this? I thought I was truly happy in the existence I led before tasting these meatballs and now, I’m even happier. Gotta keep the positivity going!
Because there is a whole lot to be positive about when it comes to these meatballs guys, and I speak from someone who is not exactly a huge meatball fan—ground meat is not really my thing and even when I do eat them it’s generally in this soup. But these meatballs? I’ve made them twice in the last 3 weeks and at the rate they are disappearing, I may be making them again pretty soon.
The coating of these in panko is pure genius! I can’t believe I never thought of doing it before and now I think pretty much everything would taste better coated with a little panko. Ha!
If you’ve never used panko before and don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, panko are Japanese breadcrumbs made from white bread without crusts so they have a lighter, more airy sort of crumb than traditional breadcrumbs. They’re also a little bit less finely ground which gives food coated in them a little bit of a bigger crunch.
And crunch is the operative word with these meatballs. With every bite you get the perfect balance of tender filling and crunchy coating—you’re gonna LOVE the texture.
And the flavor—these are packed with so much goodness, parsley, basil, garlic, Parmesan—even pine nuts and no one ingredient overpowers the other—you just get happiness in every bite.
Plus, they’re really not much more time consuming to make than regular meatballs. Once you’ve shaped the mixture into balls, you simply roll them in panko, brown in a little olive oil and bake to finish them off.
Also, while some meatballs need the addition of tomato sauce to pump them up, these are kinda perfect just on their own.
Not that they don’t taste good the traditional way too, swimming in a little tomato sauce or even parmigiana style—it’s just that these are so yummy themselves that… there I go again. Insulting tomato sauce and mozzarella when I mean no harm. I just can’t seem to keep from putting my foot in my mouth today. Thus, I will now stop talking and stuff in a meatball instead before I do any more damage! Yikes!
Makes 8-10 servings, I get about 24-28 meatballs
You will need a food processor for this.
Prep Time for Meatballs: 30 minutes; Bake Time: 35-40 minutes
For the Meatballs
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork (you could just use all beef too)
1 1/2 panko bread crumbs, divided
1/4 cup milk
4 large eggs
1 large handful chopped fresh parsley
1 large handful fresh basil, chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch or two of black pepper
1-2 shakes red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup raw pine nuts
Optional—Tomato Sauce for serving, store bought or this easy homemade version
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Place the beef, pork, 1/2 cup of the panko, milk and eggs in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix together well and set aside.
3. Use a food processor fitted with the metal blade to combine the parsley, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper, 1/4 cup oil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Process until the mixture is finely chopped and then add to the meat mixture in the bowl. Mix until well combined.
4. Place the remaining 1 cup panko on a large plate and set an empty large plate next to it. Roll the meat mixture into small balls and then roll in the panko to coat it everywhere. Place on the reserved plate and continue until all the mixture has been used up. I generally get anywhere from 24-28 meatballs, depending on how large I roll them.
5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. In batches, brown the meatballs on all sides—turning them as they brown so that you sort of seal the meat in a crispy brown panko coating. It takes anywhere from 8-10 minutes. Once browned, transfer the meatballs to the prepared pan.
6. Bake the meatballs for 30 minutes. Check and see that they are cooked all the way through. If not, give them another 10 minutes or so. Serve as is or with tomato sauce or layer them in a casserole with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese—you can’t go wrong with these and leftovers are great cold!
Note: Recipe adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking by Gaby Dalkin. I tinkered with proportions and ingredients and use a somewhat different cooking method too.