Nana's meatballs begin with saltines. Yup, saltines. Half a sleeve of them, crunched up in the bottom of a big bowl. Pour whole milk in just to cover the little guys and then let them sit to soak it all in. Chop up some shallots, a bit of garlic, and parsley...maybe even a wee bit of basil if you are feeling fancy. Mix that all together with some salt and pepper, a bunch of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (or both if you are like me) and one egg. Once that is well combined, use your hands to work in the meat. I use buffalo. Good buffalo. Any meat will work but I think the buffalo has such a great flavor. Don't over work the meat but you want to be sure it is combined well. I tend to use a pound and a half of meat or more depending on how many meatballs I want. If I need more saltines, milk etc, I use them. This is where the patience, experience and taste testing comes in handy.
Now some folks like small meatballs and that's alll fine and good. They can have their small meatballs. But me, I like GINORMOUS meatballs. I figure some of it will come off in the sauce anyway so I should go ahead and make them massive that way when it comes time to eat they're still big. I just roll them in my hands and plop them in. They don't all have to be the same size. You can't overcook a meatball when you are cooking them in the sauce. They only get better! So just plop them in and then gently tuck them under the sauce. They don't have to be buried in there, just make sure they have a wee layer of sauce over them and they are not over crowding each other. The key here is to simmer your sauce but DON'T STIR for at least 30 minutes after plopping in the meatballs. If you must stir, and this would have to be like some kind of serious stirring emergency, please please please!! use the end of a wooden spoon. The spoon end is more likely to help you make bolognese than sauce and meatballs.
Alton Brown makes baked meatballs! Now I definitely prefer my sauce method, but if you have a hankering mid-week for some meatballs then this will do. I use my above recipe for the mix and just follow his instructions for baking. If you go ahead and try his full recipe, let me know how it goes. I have to say, only so many meatballs fit into my massive sauce pot so when having a gang over for spaghetti and meatballs, baking a second batch really helped me feed everyone and no one seemed to know the difference once they were smothered in sauce.
Ingredients:1 and 1/2 lbs of meat (buffalo or beef or both, can also add some pork)
1/2 sleeve of saltines
whole milk (1/2 - 1 cups worth)
2+ large shallots, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced well
Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses