Making meatballs is fun because there are so many varieties: beef, chicken, lamb, ham, pork, Chinese, cheese-stuffed, and even vegetarian. You can serve them in many ways, too, on top of pasta, or stuffed into a sandwich, added to soup, or as an appetizer.
I’ve been making Swedish meatballs for years and, much as we love them, I was ready for a change. An avid cookbook reader, I took some of my favorite volumes off the shelf, and started reading recipes. Although many sounded good, none sparked my interest until I found one in The Complete Book of Pasta: An Italian Cookbook by Jack Denton Scott.
First published in 1968, my version is a paperback, published in 1973, and the pages have yellowed with age. I had made the recipe before, and remembered that it needed some “tweaking.” How could I change this recipe and make it my own? First, I used pork instead of beef. Since I loved the raisins so much, I added more of them, and added more parsley. I also changed the breadcrumbs and seasoning.
The meat is pre-cooked in the oven for 25 minutes, and finished by simmering in the jarred sauce of your choice. (I used Marinara). I served the meatballs on top of bow-shaped pasta and it was great. Maybe it’s because I knew they were there, but I could taste the raisins, and loved them. This surprised me because I’m not ordinarily a raisin fan.
You may think dried fruit doesn’t pair well with a tomato-based sauce, but I can assure you that it does. Personally, I think the raisins make this recipe unique. If you’re pressed for time, make the meat mixture a day ahead, pre-cook the meatballs, and refrigerate or freeze them. Finish the recipe the next day or later. Here is my recipe for Italian Meatballs with Golden Raisins.
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1/3 cup golden raisins, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1 pound lean ground pork
1 jar of pasta sauce
Parmesan cheese, grated
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking pan with cooking spray. Crack the eggs into a batter bowl and beat well with fork. Add all ingredients, except meat, and combine well. Slowly work pork into breadcrumb mixture. Form meat into ping-pong size balls and set on pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Pour sauce into soup pot. Swish out the jar with a little water. Transfer meatballs to pot, cover, and simmer over low heat for 1/2 hour, minimum, or 1 hour. Serve on your pasta of choice, cooked white or brown rice, or ciabatta bread. Garnish with Parmesan cheese. Makes 6-8 servings.