TO celebrate National Meatball Day on March 9, Australian Beef has partnered with The Meatball & Wine Bar Melbourne founder Matteo Bruno to discover what makes the greatest meatball.
Bruno shared his easy recipe for an authentic Italian meatball, stuffed with oozy mozzarella and poached in a rich red tomato sauce, paired with a fresh green leaf and fennel salad and chunk of crunchy bread.
“These classic Italian flavours, simple ingredients and quality Australian beef mince make the most tender, fall-apart meatballs,” Bruno said.
“The addition of mozzarella takes this dish to the next level and, as far as I’m concerned, makes these the greatest meatballs out there.”
MATTEO BRUNO’S BEST BEEF MEATBALLS
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 80 minutes
1kg beef mince (makes around 15 meatballs)
4 slices of white bread
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small brown onion, finely diced
1 bunch of parsley, chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
160g fresh ricotta cheese
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
150g mozzarella, cut into 1.5cm cubes
12 small vine tomatoes, sliced in half
Half a small brown onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1.5 litres of passata
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Bunch of basil leaves, picked and torn
Green leaf and fennel salad to serve
1. For the meatballs – season the beef mince in a large bowl with two generous pinches of salt and pepper. Soak the bread slices in milk until fully absorbed then remove any excess milk by squeezing the bread with your hands. Tear into small pieces and add to the mince.
2. Add the onion, garlic, chilli, parsley, nutmeg, Parmesan and ricotta cheese to the mince. Add the eggs and fold everything together with your hands.
3. Roll generous size meatballs then, using your thumb, make an imprint into the meatball and place the mozzarella cube inside, making sure to encase the mozzarella completely. The mixture should make around 15 meatballs.
4. Set aside in the fridge until ready to cook.
5. For the red sauce – add a generous amount of olive oil to a heavyset saucepan and place on high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Add the tomatoes to the hot oil; they will begin to blister and caramelise in the hot oil, which brings out their sweetness deliciously.
6. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook whilst stirring for around 3 minutes. Next add the garlic and tomato paste.
7. Once the onions are translucent, add the tinned tomatoes and passata. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat and cook for at least one hour on a low heat. After an hour, season to taste with salt and pepper then tear in the basil leaves.
8. Once ready, place the meatballs into the sauce for around 18 minutes on a gentle simmer until the meatballs are tender and falling apart.
9. Serve 3-4 meatballs in a bowl with the red sauce poured on top. Shave or grate Parmesan and tear basil leaves to finish the dish.
10. Toss green leaves and sliced fennel with a simple dressing. Serve the meatballs with the salad and a chunk of crunchy bread.
When buying beef mince for meatballs, steer clear of super lean mince. Fattier mince will make for a delicious rich flavour and melt in the mouth texture. When buying mince at the butcher ask for chuck, shin or intercostal beef mince.
Slightly wet your hands before rolling the mince mixture into meatballs – this will make them easier to roll and less messy.
To make sure the mozzarella doesn’t ooze out of the meatballs too quickly, place the cubes into the freezer at least an hour ahead of cooking.