Meatball Madness

image via Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

We are having a meatball moment.

Of course meatballs never went out of style, but the homey, homely dish is downright stylish.

The meatball renaissance could have been predicted. As we turned to comfort foods to soothe our frazzled, modern souls, we’ve seen a parade of the familiar: fried chicken, cupcakes, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese—each has had its turn in the spotlight. Meatballs were inevitable.

Meatballs are simple and inexpensive to prepare at home, and are nearly always a bargain on restaurant menus. They are not a vehicle for expensive cuts of meat, and in fact benefit from cheap and fatty grindings. They cry out for filler to add flavor and moisture, and are a perfect landing spot for stale bread and cheese rinds.

Meatballs dovetail nicely with other contemporary trends. They are a truly global food: köfta (Indian), polpette (Italian), keftedes (Greek), albóndigas (Mexican); meatballs in any language. They unleash the kid-with-a-chemistry-set impulses of the DIY crowd. And they always smack of authenticity.

There has never been a better time to eat meatballs.

Chefs are lavishing care and attention on meatballs. Some challenge themselves to recreate the classic meatball, barely tweaking humble traditions. Other chefs reinterpret the dish with luxe ingredients and modern sensibilities, like the much ballyhooed duck and foie gras meatballs served at New York’s A Voce.

The omnipresent orbs—outtakes from our meatball mania:

It’s all meatballs, all the time (at least until the 4 AM closing) at the Meatball Shop. Round-the-block lines have been a constant since it opened earlier this year on a hipsterish block on New York’s lower east side.

Around the country and online, professional chefs and home cooks are competing in contests like Meatball Melée, Meatball Smackdown, and Meatball Showdown.

This month saw the debut of Chicago’s Meatyballs, a meatball-dispensing kosher food truck.

The title of world’s largest meatball is the most hotly contested of the Guinness World Records. Last fall we saw TV host Jimmy Kimmel claim the title with a 199 pounder. After a mere 5 weeks of bragging rights, a Concord, New Hampshire Italian restaurant toppled the record, besting Kimmel’s meatball by 25 pounds. Then this spring, the faculty and students of Michigan’s Glen Oaks Community College had a 254 pound monster certified by by Guinness World Record officials. In a few weeks, the Columbus (Ohio) Italian Club plans to settle this once and for all with an 800 pound attempt planned for their annual fall festival weekend.

Bear in mind that the Guinness World Record requires a fully edible meatball prepared in scrupulous accordance to health code standards. No easy feat.

On a more manageable scale, there’s still plenty of time to enter the Meatball Madness recipe contest for home cooks. For inspiration, you can look to In Mama’s Kitchen which has collected meatball recipes from dozens of the world’s culinary traditions.

Not much of a cook? Not much of a carnivore? Find meatless meatballs at restaurants from coast to coast with the Veg Source‘s top ten list of America’s best vegan meatballs.

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10 Responses to Meatball Madness

  1. Toby Butay says:

    Man, my grandmomma was Italian and she made the most amazing meatballs I ever tasted, like you wouldnt believe. Sadly, she didnt leave a recipe for me so I’ve been trying to work it out by myself… slowly working my through the meatball recipes here, I still cant figure out what her secret ingredient was though!!!

  2. Te agradezco mucho realmente, muy buena la informacion que escribiste . Me resultó muy oportuna la manera en que encaraste el tema. Espero que sigas publicando este tipo de artículos ya que me son de gran utilidad. Aprovecho para dejarte una página que tiene buena información relacionada a los catering para fiestas . Gracias y Saludos!

  3. Mmmmm. I love really spicy meatballs. One of the nicest meatball dinners I had was served in pitta bread as pinchos in a remote village in the Lecrin Valley in Spain. I still have flavour flashbacks!

  4. you are right – how timely was my post – what a coincidence…

  5. Ooh- I have to make Friday lunch for my daughter’s class tomorrow. I was going to do spaghetti with meatsauce, but now you’ve got me thinking I should do spaghetti with meatballs!! Thanks!

  6. Susi says:

    Love meatballs in sauce over spaghetti, I like them on a sandwich, love them in sweet and sour sauce, Swedish, you name it, I will eat it :o)

  7. I recommended it on stumbleupon. The only thing that it’s missing is a bit of speed, the pictures are appearing slowly. Anyway thank you for this blog.

  8. I LOVE meatballs! They are so versatile, I love experimenting with them!

  9. Elisabeth says:

    One of my all-time favorite is the sweet and sour meatballs, which is always a welcome at every party. Another one is the sausage meatballs. That reminds me, both of these meatballs were always a favorite from my catering parties. Have to make some again, and post it on my food blog.

  10. With Italian grandparents who came from a family of bakers and specialized in the 7-course meals–meatballs were as much a part of my childhood as a glass of water spiked with a little red wine. Glad to hear the spheres are what’s here and now.

    My favorite? Adding pinenuts and raisins. That’s what my Grandma taught me.

    My other favorite? Swedish.

    Cool post. Thanks!

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