My Mom's Meatballs

Y'all. This has been a rough week. I hope you've been holding your loved ones tightly, doing good where you can, and inspiring peace in your small ways.

If you've gathered around a table this week (or even sidled up to the microwave), I'm willing to bet a lot of you have dipped in to your comfort food supply or made some favorite recipes that remind you of good times and people you love.

Most of my comfort food is predictably Italian-American. An oversized bowl of steaming pasta; a nice block of cheesy, warm lasagna; my mom's bracciole for super special (usually happy) occasions. In fact, I was almost going to do a post this week on "real weeknight pasta" - not the responsible, upstanding, eat-a-rainbow kind you find in food magazines, always with a red pepper and some baby spinach, always satisfying, but never soul-satisfying. No, the kind that acknowledges that if you're going to starch-bomb your evening, you'd better do it right, without illusions or carefully selected crisp produce, and with a bit of indulgence, olive oil, and pork.

So that'll be a post for another time.

Earlier this week I made my mom's meatballs. Originally I set out to make them since they're one of Jack's favorite foods (ah, he is my son), and I was embarrassed that all he had experienced were some admittedly very good storebought frozen ones. But then Wednesday happened. And Thursday happened. And Thursday night happened. And suddenly the meatballs I had made on Tuesday turned out to be the anchor to home and to family that we needed in these seemingly endless waves of horror, tragedy, and confusion.

I'm not saying these meatballs will fix any of that stuff. I have been feverishly thinking of ways to reach out and help those who are hurting worse than we are. Maybe you're doing the same. If your default setting is like mine, and you make food for others when times get dark, I'll just tell you that these scale up admirably, and freeze even better.

Make a mega batch and bring some over to the neighbors.


  1. The version below is double the quantity of the original recipe. I don't know that either of us have ever made less than a double batch, so I've quit being demure about it.

  2. Technically, there are two more differences between this recipe and my mom's. These are baked in the oven; she fries hers in olive oil. (I'll let that sink in for a second. Yes, they are phenomenal.) I also use grated Parmesan, whereas my mom likes the saltiness of Romano. I think you can do either, but I like the rounder flavor of Parmesan - then I just supplement with a tiny bit of extra salt to keep it balanced.

  3. I made these rather small this week, maybe about 3/4-inch in diameter, AND IT WAS A BIG MISTAKE. Not that they didn't turn out well - rather, they turned out TOO well. And, being small, they were far too easy to pop into one's mouth, like popcorn. Meaty, savory popcorn. I'm not saying don't make them small, but I am saying that with small size comes great responsibility (or willpower).


  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 pound ground pork

  • 1 cup bread crumbs - seasoned, plain, even Panko (if you bash them up a bit)

  • 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

  • 2 eggs

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste

Special equipment:  cookie sheet/baking pan; parchment paper


Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with clean hands. In particular, keep an eye on the color of the mixture, ensuring that the meat and pork are evenly combined (though there is no need to overwork it).

Roll into small-ish balls about 1 inch in diameter. (You can make these larger, you'll just add a bit more cooking time to make sure they're cooked through.) Place the meatballs on the baking sheet as you go, giving them a bit of room on all sides so they don't steam each other to death.

Place in the middle of the oven, and bake for about 10 minutes. Then go in and shimmy the pan so the meatballs crisp evenly. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through.

Freeze or use as desired.

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