No dig intended, but these are not the meatballs of my childhood. These are light, tender, full of veggies and just as good on their own as they are swimming in a pool of tomato sauce. And for 3 people who profess to "not really care about meatballs all that much", they certainly disappeared at a record rate! Tomato Zucchini Meatballs--who knew?!!
Before we get to the nitty-gritty about the food, I can't not talk about the horrific Las Vegas shooting. Really, can you think about anything else?!! Anger, disbelief, pain--the emotions run the gamut and my heart goes out to all the people directly affected but also to our country and world as a whole. Let's be nice to each other! Please!!!
Now, back to the food. Truly, these are so flavorful and so perfect, that you'll be happy to pop them into your mouth without any of the traditional meatball adornments. Hey, I'm not going to judge you if you drop them into a pot of tangy tomato sauce or layer them on a hero for an amazing meatball parmigiana sub (if you do invite me over) I'm just here to say that these are GOOD--so good that they can stand on their own!
What they are not is pretty--but again, this is a judgement-free zone and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?
As the temperatures dip and we start to crave comfort foods more and more, I predict that these yummy little balls of deliciousness will make more and more appearances in our house...and I can't wait!!
Tomato Zucchini Meatballs
Makes about 8 servings
Prep Time: About 1 hour and 15 minutes (these can made into meatballs, refrigerated overnight and then cooked the following day
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more if frying meatballs instead of baking them
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 cup peeled chopped fresh plum tomato (you could also use canned chopped tomatoes)
- 1 small zucchini, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 pounds ground beef (I used the 85% lean)
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
1. Place the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a large pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften but not get brown. Add in the tomatoes, zucchini, garlic and a bit more salt and cook for about 10 minutes, until all the veggies are softened, stirring every now and then. Remove from the heat and let cool a bit.
2. Place the ground beef into a large bowl and add the cooled veggies, the Parmesan, bread crumbs, egg and a pinch or two more salt and a few shakes of pepper. Use your hands to gently work everything together, just until all the ingredients are incorporated--you don't want to over mix or the meatballs will be tough.
3. Shape the mixture into about 1-inch balls and place on a plate. Chill for at least 15 minutes and up to 24 hours. Cover the plate with aluminum foil if you're going to be chilling these for more than 30 minutes.
4. In the same skillet you used to sauté the veggies, heat about ¼ inch more oil over medium heat and add meatballs in batches to the pan, being careful not to crowd them. Cook them on all sides, turning them so they can get brown all over. Then lower the heat a bit, cover the skillet and let finish cooking for another 6-8 minutes, until entirely cooked through. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cook the remaining meatballs, raising the heat again for them to brown and adding more oil to the pan if needed. OR you can bake these. Preheat oven to 400F. Line rimmed baking sheets with heavy duty aluminum foil (or double the foil). Place the meatballs about 2 inches apart and bake for about 20 minutes or until entirely cooked through, turning once during the process. They will get a little less browned than if you fry them but it's a whole lot less messy this way. Either way they taste great!
5. Meatballs last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days and can be eaten cold or reheated in a low oven on their own or in a pot of sauce.
Note: Recipe adapted from A New Way To Dinner by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs.