Beach House Meatballs
People: let's talk balls. Meatballs, that is.
I'm spoiled when it comes to meatballs. My mom makes her meatballs at home, and they're dang good because she was taught by Italian great-grandmother who lived in New York. I grew up thinking delicious homemade meatballs were the norm. It honestly didn't even occur to me that there could be such a thing as store-bought meatballs until one fateful evening, around Christmas, while I was still in elementary school. I bit into a meatball and it tasted....different. Not good. Bad.
Attempting to be diplomatic, I asked whether there was something different about this particular batch of meatballs. Mom then notified us that she had run out, and that these came from the store. Being someone who tends to share my opinions whether or not they're wanted, I proceeded to notify her that these balls of meat were horribly inferior--that, in fact, they were "gross."
At which point my uncle tried to salvage the situation, and the dinner. He wielded his fork like a battle axe, chopping downward to slice one of the meatballs in half. "If you cut them in two, they're tasty to chew!" he proclaimed, which made my brother and I just about die with laughter. It did not make the store-bought meatballs taste any better, however. Even Mom described them as "barely palatable."
After this point, I became suspicious about any meatballs served in our household. I'd look at them, poke them with a fork, and ask "Are these tasty-to-chew meatballs?" They never were, but my meatball-innocence had been stolen. I now knew that there was such a thing as a *bad meatball*. I had become a shrewd and jaded meatball enthusiast.
Fast forward about ten years. As I've mentioned before on this blog, my extended family on my dad's side have been going on a beach trip to Sunset Beach just about every summer for like 45 years. We rent two beach houses, a big house and a small house, and distribute all twenty-something of us between the two. We spend all day out in the sun and sand, only coming in for a lunch break during the hottest part of the day, and then hit the beach again until we come back up to shower and rendezvous at the big house for dinner.
My grandparents had six kids, four girls and two boys (my dad being one of the boys). To split up the cooking, each separate family in our big extended family is responsible for dinner one night of the week: my grandparents (1), my aunts and their families (2, 3, 4, 5), my uncle and his family (6), and my parents and my brother and I (7).
It is through this system that I tried all kinds of food that I otherwise never would have growing up in the mountains of Colorado. Lowcountry boil, shrimp and grits, fresh-caught shrimp over pasta with sweet, sautéed summer corn. Things that really only make sense at or near the beach, with a giant family to share them with.
I also first ate of my favorite recipes in the whole world at the beach house: my aunt Monica made a pasta dish one year that was so incredible that I've made it at least once a month in the decade since I first had it. I'll share it someday on the blog, but until then: let's get back to balls.
I look forward every year to the night that Aunt Meg makes dinner. Meg is the sweetest person you could ever meet, has the greatest laugh, is oh-so fashionable, and is an awesome cook on top of that. She always goes all-out and makes a delicious feast; usually two different courses or options, and oftentimes dessert on top of that. In years past she's made so many yummy pasta dishes, a lemon cake with an icing glaze--it's magical. But something that stood out to me was the year she made homemade meatballs. They were so good that they made it through my rigorous and jaded *bad meatball* filter. So naturally, I asked her for the recipe.
The recipe that I'm sharing with you today is a slightly adapted version of the glorious meatballs she made for us that one summer in our beach house kitchen. They've got chunks of fresh-minced garlic and chopped fresh parsley throughout, plus some delicious parmesan cheese that just pulls everything together. They're seriously good. And by this point, I'm ready for summer weather and summer living, how about you?! Or at least spring weather and flowers. But even in Charleston it's still acting like winter and dipping down into the 40's some days--so I figured that these meatballs would be a good mixture of warm and hearty winter eating and breezy summer memories. But if I'm being honest, I don't feel like meatballs have a season. These babies are good all year 'round.
I wrote in the recipe that the meatballs take about 45 minutes, but that's only because I cook my meatballs in two separate batches (12 and 8) so that both sheets are able to cook on the top shelf of the oven. If you want to cook them at the same time, one baking sheet on each rack, this recipe only takes about 30 minutes. But if you're not in a hurry and are chilling and watching New Girl like I was whilst making meatballs--then top rack it, bro.
Otherwise, this recipe is super straightforward, simple, and quick. Stick extra meatballs in an airtight container or bag in the freezer and pull them out and thaw them as needed. Usually, I double this recipe and put a whole bunch in the freezer so I can have a speedy spaghetti and meatball dinner whenever life is madness and I feel like I have no time to cook but am super hungry (so, pretty much every day?!).
Really the secret mission for this post was to see how many times I could say the word 'meatball' in a short period of time and I'm proud (and ultimately dismayed--but there's not really a synonym for the word, right?) to announce that the grand total rings in at precisely too many times.
So let's stop while we're ahead, and go out and grab life by the Beach House Meatballs.
Beach House Meatballs
Takes: About 45 minutes
Makes: 20 meatballs
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 3 cloves garlic
- A large handful of fresh Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- Black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 300°.
- Mince the garlic cloves, and chop the parsley until it is fine.
- In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients by hand.
- Roll the meat mixture into one inch balls and place them on a baking sheet, spacing a few inches apart.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. **Cook time changes depending on how large you roll the meatballs. This cook time is true for one inch meatballs; larger meatballs will need a longer cook time.**
- Enjoy over spaghetti with red sauce, in a meatball sandwich, or as an appetizer!
Adapted from my Aunt Meg's homemade meatball recipe.