I had a summer job at a Chicago chain restaurant called Portillo’s, and every few days this very nice elderly gentleman came in and said “$1.35,” which always meant he wanted one meatball, no sauce, for here. The meatballs were probably only slightly smaller than a baseball. He was always very happy about his one meatball. I joked to my coworkers that I’ll be doing the exact same thing in my old age, but let’s be serious, it’s not a bad way to live.
I’m currently practicing for my meatball-laden old age now by making them from scratch. They’re actually exceptionally easy to make. The ingredients list looks really long, which often deters me from recipes because I don’t like buying 15 things for one dish, but this is really just veggies, a protein, egg, and a bunch of spices, and voilaaa, balls.
If you’re looking for a swedish meatball, I can’t help you. Just leave and go to IKEA.
You’ll notice that most recipes either call for breadcrumbs or nothing, and this one has straight up flour. I didn’t have breadcrumbs but I was worried that they wouldn’t keep their shape, so I added some. You can’t make ball jokes if your meatballs are falling apart, well… but maybe you can.
I generally make meatballs with turkey, not beef, because I never have ground beef in my fridge and turkey’s a little bit leaner, but you can use whatever meat you want.
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped mushroom
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 large egg
1 pound ground turkey
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1.5 teaspoon flour
salt & pepper
Finely chop the onion & mushrooms. If you’re sitting there like, “how much whole onion is 1/4 cup chopped,” the answer is I still have no idea. Just kidding. Try half a small onion. If that’s too much, just throw it in the fridge and save it for something else. You can’t really go wrong with onions. 2-3 whole white mushrooms should be good.
Chop the cilantro and the garlic. If you can’t really chop the cilantro, just rip it up into little pieces. It’s not really a big deal if it’s not perfect.
Put onion, cilantro, garlic, onion, and mushrooms in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hand. I don’t mind getting messy so I used my hand, but whatever floats your boat.
Crack the egg into the bowl and mix well with whatever utensil you’re using.
Add the ground turkey in sections, mixing as you go along. Honestly, using your hands is probably going to be the easiest to mix this beast.
Add the basil, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder and mix. sprinkle in a fair amount of salt and how much pepper you like.
Add flour as needed. You don’t want it too dry, but I would add a little bit so it stays together.
Heat a pan with enough olive oil to coat the bottom on medium high heat.
Start making ball shapes, about an inch in diameter. I used my hands, but might be easiest to do this with a measuring spoon or some sort of deep spoon. If you want your balls bigger or smaller, go right ahead. This is a no judgment zone.
Add your meatballs to the pan. Let them cook on one side for 4-5 minutes. You basically want them cooked enough that they’ll keep their shape when you attempt to turn them over. Using a spoon an a spatula, roll them over and let them keep cooking another 4-5 minutes. They probably won’t be perfectly round, but who cares, you just made balls from scratch.
Serve with pasta and crock-pot spaghetti sauce (or not) and let people be impressed by your balls.
Post, Photo, and Recipe by Lian Weinstein.