Dinner for Two: Easy Skillet Italian Meatballs
So – HOW tight are your pants right now?
Or, more specifically — Are you even wearing pants yet? Because I’ve been relegated to leggings for about five days straight.
The truth is I didn’t even eat that much on Thanksgiving, which somehow already feels like three weeks ago (#why). It’s just that my typical Nov – Dec involves SO much eating, by Christmas I’m completely stuffed. So it’s important I temper my appetite with some normal meals, and these skillet Italian meatballs are my current favorite.
I know that meatballs aren’t your typical healthy food, but seeing as I made these with homemade sauce, extra-lean ground beef (GRASS FED!), and part skim mozz, it’s not a total stretch. My basic tomato sauce is super manageable, so even first-timers should give it a whirl. The key is to use San Marzano peeled tomatoes, which are my absolute favorite. They’re sweet, plump, and flavorful, so not much else is needed to make this sauce fire — A pinch of basil & oregano, a dash of s&p, and some sugar! Easy, fast, delicious. Crushed tomatoes can also be used (no potato masher needed!) so feel free to go that route. And obviously you can use jarred sauce… but, ya know. Make it fresh if you can.
The meatballs are just as easy as the sauce, so you’ll have them rolled in about 5 minutes. The most important thing is that the beef is EXTRA LEAN — I’m talking 96%/4%, lean as hell. Because some fat will render in the skillet when the meatballs bake, you do not want excess fat mixing with your sauce. If necessary you could always use ground chicken or turkey, but beef is SO flavorful, it’s worth the tiniest bit of fat. Anyway, when the time comes you can spoon-out any rendered fat before adding the sauce, or just pour the sauce right on in! I did the later, and it tasted incredible.
This is the kind of recipe you can easily make weekly, so get ready to put it on repeat. The combination of homemade sauce + lean meatballs is somehow savory and herbaceous, it’s like comfort food that’s refreshing too. The meatballs are an ideal combination of extra crisped outsides + flavorful, juicy insides, so they’re basically the perfect ball (make your own joke with that). And a snowcap of mozzarella cheese doesn’t hurt either, nor does a giant loaf of Italian bread.
The dunking here is A++.
Easy Skillet Italian Meatballs
- 28oz can peeled or crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/4 tsps basil
- 1 1/4 tsps oregano
- 1 tsp crushed or minced garlic
- several dashes salt
- a few pinches black pepper
- a few pinches granulated sugar
- 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef (I used 96%/4%)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 tbsps breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp minced onion
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- a pinch of salt & pepper
- 1 – 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil to coat
- 3/4 cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
- fresh Italian bread for dipping
- Begin by preparing the sauce. In a large saucepan combine all sauce ingredients over a medium-low flame, adjusting the seasonings as needed and mashing the tomatoes with a potato masher if using peeled tomatoes. Cover and simmer, occasionally stirring and mashing as appropriate.
- Pre-heat oven to 400F.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the extra lean ground beef, egg yolk, breadcrumbs, onion, basil, oregano, and salt & pepper. Using damp hands, roll the meat into six golf ball-sized rounds, then transfer to a cast-iron skillet or greased, oven-proof skillet.* Use a pastry brush to coat each round in EVOO, then bake for 15 minutes until crisped on the outside but not fully cooked.
- When ready, remove meatballs from oven and smother with sauce. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes more, then lastly remove foil and top skillet with mozzarella cheese. Bake an additional 5 – 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and melted — to test, the meatballs are cooked when they reach an internal temp of 140 – 145F — then immediately plate and serve. Pair with fresh Italian bread for dipping.
* as most of you know, if you’re using a cast iron skillet it’s naturally “seasoned”, so no greasing is needed. If you only own a regular skillet, coat the bottom with a tsp or two of olive oil before adding the meatballs.
dive on in.