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Nate Cooks » Making Meatballs from Scratch

Making Meatballs from Scratch


Making meatballs from scratch is an exercise in nostalgia for me. Along with chocolate cookies and banana bread, meatballs are one of the first things I remember making in my mother’s kitchen. It was always a big production too; a full day affair. In retrospect, trying to corral three kids and keep the whole kitchen from getting covered in ground meat probably did make this a bit more complicated that it otherwise would be.

However! Making meatballs from scratch is easy and the results are much better than the frozen ones you can get at the grocery store. Plus you get to knead the ground meat with your hands, which adds a pleasant level of savagery to your dinner. This recipe is taken from the one my mother makes. I’ve changed it slightly by using a mixture of pork and beef instead of just beef, but otherwise it’s the same.

The ingredients you’ll need are:

  • Half a sleeve of saltine crackers ($3.69 a box)
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs ($2.89 for a 24 oz box)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese ($3.25 for a 1/4 lb)
  • 1.5 pounds ground pork ($5.99)
  • 1.5 pounds ground beef ($4.49)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped ($0.23 for one)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped ($0.75 for one head)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped ($1.49)
  • 4 eggs ($2.69 for a dozen)

Total: $25.47 for about 50 meatballs

The preparation couldn’t be simpler. I usually start by crushing the saltines in a big bowl. You want the crumbs to be pretty fine, but bigger than breadcrumbs. You can see the crushed crackers underneath the breadcrumbs in this picture:


In times past, I’ve diced the onions and garlic too coarsely and the meatballs have fallen apart when they’ve cooked. So now I put the onions and garlic into the food processor and chop them that way. It’s not quite onion puree (delicious, huh!?) but it’s much finer that I can get with my sub-standard knife skills.


Once you’ve chopped the onions, add them and all the other ingredients to the bowl.


Now comes the fun part! Get in there with your hands and knead everything together until everything is totally incorporated.


Now you just roll the meat into balls. I usually shoot for balls about 1.5-2″ in diameter. Put the finished balls on a baking sheet until you’re done.


From here you can cook your meatballs in the oven, or you can add them to your favorite tomato sauce.


  • By Mindy, April 25, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

    What a great idea to use a processor for the onions and garlic–I can never get them small enough for my taste by hand. These look delicious…do you ever freeze any for later?


    Nate Reply:

    I’ve never frozen them, but I’m sure they’d be fine if you did. I would just cover the whole baking tray with some foil or plastic wrap then put it in the freezer, then once they’re frozen put them in a bag. I’ve done that with dumpling before and they’ve been fine reheated.


  • By jon jordan, April 25, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

    mmm they sound delicious..i love the meats mixed together..


    Nate Reply:

    Thanks! The pork goes a long way in keeping the meatballs moist after they’ve been cooked.


  • By ravenouscouple, May 15, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

    great photos and recipes! We love this particular one since it reminds me of the nem nuong and egg roll stuffing we make in vietnamese food. Great concept on budgeting!! Keep it up!


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