Sometimes you get recipes from a cookbook, or online, or from a friend. This recipe for spinach lamb meatballs started in a cookbook in NY, bounced to the US West coast, and then back again to NY. It was a cross-country collaboration!
Here’s what happened. A friend had some ground lamb and was looking for dinner ideas.I mentioned a spinach lamb meatball recipe I had and gave her the ingredients.
She wanted to serve her meatballs with marinara sauce, so I suggested she might want to change it around a bit (the original recipe called for nutmeg, which wasn’t going to work with marinara sauce). Also, while the recipe I had fit her requirements, it was, honestly, a bit bland, and needed more punch.
She added her own spin, then told me what she did. I made a few more changes, and ended up with this recipe.
Red wine vinegar stands up to the lamb’s assertive flavor, while cumin adds a warm, nutty, slightly spicy bite. The spinach adds color, and those all important vitamins and iron too.
It’s pretty easy to put together too. First, you sweat the onions (cook them over low heat for a few minutes, until they become transparent). Then wash and dry the spinach (this is important, otherwise the meatballs will be too moist and won’t hold together). The rest is simply measuring, mixing, and rolling.
I may cook quite a few “exotic” or complicated dishes, but sometimes something simple and comforting and nostalgic really hits the spot. And when it comes to nostalgia and comfort food, it’s hard to beat an old-fashioned, but easy, Italian meatball recipe. Just thinking about spaghetti and meatballs makes me smile.
You can serve this the classic way, with spaghetti and marinara sauce, but they’re also great for making a fast Italian wedding soup. If you don’t want the soup right away, just increase the recipe, and make a few extra meatballs and pop them in the freezer. Then days, or weeks later you can defrost them and treat yourself to soup in a few minutes.
I’ve kept this recipe simple, and easy, but you can change it to suit your own tastes and preferences. Check the end of the post for some inspiration. You can make it spicier, swap the bread crumbs for oatmeal or potato starch (to make it gluten-free), or use turkey instead of beef. A mixture of pork and beef is good too.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together, using your hands.
Form the mixture into balls, about 1 inch in diameter.
Heat the oil in a skillet and gently place the meatballs in the pan. Let them cook for a minute or two, then turn them gently (so they don't fall apart). Cook for about 10 minutes.
If you don't mind a two step process, preheat your toaster oven to 350 degrees. Place the raw meatballs on the tray that comes with the oven. Cook for a minute or two. While that's cooking, heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Transfer the meatballs to the pan and cook, turning gently, until they are done, about 5-7 minutes.
This helps keep the meatballs from falling apart.
Substitutions and Variations for Easy Italian Meatballs
use a mixture of ground beef and pork, instead of just beef
add more garlic
if you can’t have gluten, use oatmeal or potato starch, instead of breadcrumbs (either grind up regular oats in a mini-chopper, or use quick-cooking oats).
use ground turkey or chicken instead of meat (if you do, I recommend getting the dark meat turkey; it tastes better)
This recipe for sweet and sour turkey meatballs with jelly and chili sauce is comfort food that’s grown up and gone to the big city.
When I was a kid, my grandma used to make those classic grape jelly meatballs. Kind of sweet, but comforting and simple. As my tastes have gotten more sophisticated, I wanted something with more complex and “grownup” flavor: not quite as sweet, a little more sour, and with a bit of a spicy kick.
I replaced the grape jelly with no sugar strawberry jam (it’s sweetened only with juice, there’s no sugar or artificial sweetener), then added chili sauce, a bit of Tabasco and apple juice and got sweet and sour turkey meatballs.
My parents were visiting one day, and decided to stay for dinner. I had ground turkey and the rest of the ingredients in the fridge. I whipped up a batch of these, and I swear you’d think they’d never eaten before. Dad was sopping up the sauce with bread. Heck, he practically licked the plate! Maybe I should have called these “lick the plate clean sweet and sour meatballs.”
You make this recipe in two stages, first the meatballs, and then the sauce. Put the meatballs in the oven for a few minutes to keep them from falling apart when you add them to the sauce.
Sweet and sour jelly turkey meatballs. Easy to make and you can eat one serving and freeze the rest for another time.
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 cup oatmeal, ground up in a mini-chopper (or use breadcrumbs)
2T apple cider
salt and pepper
Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 large can tomato sauce (the 15 oz size)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 T chili sauce
2T unsweetened jam (I like blackberry or St. Dalfour Four Fruits)
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To make the meatballs, combine turkey, egg, oatmeal (or bread crumbs), cider and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix everything thoroughly.
Form the mixture into meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter. Place the meatballs in a shallow roasting pan or a cookie sheet.
Put the meatballs in the oven and bake for five minutes.
While the meatballs are cooking, start the sauce.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir to combine. When the meatballs are finished baking, remove them from the oven and set them down in a convenient spot.
Gently lift the meatballs out of the pan and place them into the pot of sauce.
Let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes until the meatballs are done. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning (sweetness or sourness) as necessary.
Serve with rice or bread (for sopping up the sauce)
Check your tomato sauce to see if it has sugar or corn syrup. If it does, you may need to add more lemon juice.
I use all fruit jam (no added sweetener). Use more lemon, or less jam, if yours has sugar or added sweeteners.
Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs with Jelly and Chili Sauce Substitutions and Variations
Use beef instead of turkey
Replace the oatmeal with breadcrumbs
Try cranberry juice instead of apple cider (it will be a bit more tart)
Experiment with different jam flavors: strawberry, raspberry, four-fruit, sour cherry (you could even go back to good old grape)
Tools and Ingredients for This Recipe
St. Dalfour Strawberry Conserves This jam (technically conserves) is sweetened only with juice. There’s no sugar and no artificial sweeteners. The other thing I like about it is that there aren’t any extra thickeners added (like maltodextrin) to bulk it up.
Black & Decker 2-Speed Food Chopper with 3-Cup Bowl I’m not sure which I use more, this chopper or the immersion blender. If you make the recipe with oatmeal, this little gadget is great for grinding it up. It’s also good for chopping onions, potatoes, or whipping up a small batch of pesto. The bowl doubles as a storage bowl (it comes with its own lid).
OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop Ever hear of a cookie scoop? I hadn’t, until recently. Ice cream sure, but not cookies. The more I think about it the more uses I come up with.
It would be great for meatballs, cookies, or the perfect scoop of tuna, egg, or potato salad. It has a soft handle that’s easy to grip (it was originally developed for someone with arthritis, but it works well for everyone). Dishwasher safe too.
I’m not Italian, so don’t hit me if this easy Italian wedding soup recipe isn’t authentic. It is, however, quick and satisfying.
There are plenty of recipes out there that require over an hour to make and a long list of ingredients. Sure there are times when I’m perfectly happy to spend an hour or more making soup, but there are other times when I’m hungry and I don’t want to wait!
This soup recipe goes from start to finish in about fifteen minutes. It hardly even requires cooking at all. Just dump, pour, and heat and you’ve got a fast, easy soup. It’s great when you don’t feel like fussing.
Besides, something about soup is just comforting, especially on a chilly day.
All you need are a few simple ingredients: meatballs (frozen are fine, or make them ahead), chicken broth, a can of white kidney (cannellini) beans, parmesan cheese and some spinach.
4-5 frozen meatballs (try Trader Joe's mini meatballs)
1/4 C canned white beans (optional)
1/2 C spinach
Add broth to saucepan and bring to a boil.
Drop in the meatballs (straight from the bag), the beans (if using), and the spinach. Lower heat and simmer about 8-10 minutes, until meatballs are heated through.
Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
I had some chopped beef to use up the day I made the soup, so I whipped up a few meatballs with some onion, garlic, bread crumbs, egg, and oregano. You can use pre-made or purchased frozen ones if you like, it will turn out just fine! If you do buy meatballs, I recommend the Trader Joe’s party meatballs.
Also, there was a bit of cabbage left in the fridge, too little to do much of anything with, so I added that in too for some extra vitamins.
Substitutions and Variations for Easy Italian Wedding Soup