You know how some recipes catapult from being just something you try to a family and friends favorite that spans generations? Well this I can assure you is one of them. I first started making this recipe when I was in my twenties. At that time I could barely cook myself out of a paper bag. But I needed to make an appetizer for a family gathering and I decided to make meatballs.
Almost everyone I know has their tried and true meatball recipe and quite a few say to me that theirs is alright but not particularly special. Well search no more. This one is special and it’s been passed down from family to friends and friends of friends for decades. Every time I serve it at least one or more people ask me how to make it. This recipe is now multi-generational!
The first time I made this I was not very adept in the kitchen. I wasn’t learned about certain ingredients, proportions, substitutions, doneness – you name it, I didn’t have a clue. But my naiveté was the factor in making a mistake that kicked this recipe to the next level and made it ever so popular.
The original recipe came from a grocery store bought book, you know the ones you always see at the checkout counter. This one was called Pillsbury’s Cookbook of Family Favorites. You can see how old it is just by looking at the price, $1.25. When was the last time you spent that small of an amount of money on a book or magazine?
When I first read the ingredients there were two things that I did not have on hand. One was cracker crumbs and my husband suggested using bread crumbs instead. The second was sweet pepper flakes. I thought to myself hmm…, that shouldn’t be too hard to find. So off to the store I trudged in search of them.
When I got to the store, lo and behold, there were no sweet pepper flakes to be found. I endlessly looked and looked at the spices and herbs and the only thing I saw with “flakes” labeled on it was red pepper flakes. So I thought to myself, “well green peppers and red peppers are considered sweet peppers so that must be it” (you see what I mean). I bought the red pepper flakes and used them in the recipe.
Now I grew up in a household where very bland food was served. My father was not one for any kind of spices, he totally shied away from garlic and onions, and any kind of “heat” was never put in what we ate. But my husband’s family loves food with a kick, the more heat the better. So little naive me went on to make this recipe substituting red pepper flakes for sweet pepper flakes and it became a huge hit. The first time I made it I used two tablespoons of red pepper flakes and that produced some spicy meatballs, let me tell you. Since then I’ve toned it down to one tablespoon which gives a very nice kick and doesn’t leave you running for something cold to drink. But if you really like to bring on the heat use two tablespoons. It won’t hurt the meatballs that’s for sure.
I’ve been trying to think if I could share any lessons learned in making this recipe but it’s very straightforward even for the novice chef. Just follow the directions and you’ll be able to serve meatballs that will always be a big hit.
The technique is easy. All you need to do is mix the ingredients for the meatballs, form them into one inch rounds and bake them for 30 minutes. Then you put them in a casserole dish, add the sauce, cover and bake them for another hour. Now what’s easier than that?
I know in other blogs I’ve said that you just have to try this recipe, but you really must make this. It’s been tried and true over decades and its popularity came about because I, the cook who never could, made the most advantageous mistake I’ve ever made in the kitchen. Enjoy this one and share it with all of your friends!
The Best Ever Meatballs…
1 lb. ground beef (I use 85% lean)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 – 3/4 cup bread crumbs (use a smaller amount and first and see if you will need more)
2 Tbs. organic minced onion flakes
1 Tbs. red pepper flakes (for really spicy meatballs add 2 Tbs)
9 drops Tabasco Sauce (you can add more if you like)
Dash of salt
3/4 cup catsup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 Tbs. organic minced onion flakes
1 tsp. prepared mustard (I use Grey Poupon but you can use yellow mustard)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
6 drops Tabasco Sauce (you can use more if you like)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients for the meatballs. Shape them into one inch balls and layer them in an ungreased jelly roll pan. (You need a sheet pan with a lip on it so the grease does not run off). Bake at 325 for 30 minutes.
Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce. Place the meatballs in a casserole dish that you can cover. Pour the sauce over the meatballs, cover and bake for 1 hour. Enjoy!