When one thinks of meatballs there’s an immediate association with big, densely packed, mounds of beef swimming in a thick tomato sauce. And while meatballs with tomato sauce have their place in both Italian American and Italian cuisine, the following recipe for delicately made and fried meatballs with provola will change your idea of the prototypical meatball.
- 1/2 pound of ground pork
- 1/2 pound of ground veal
- 1/2 pound of ground beef
- 1 cup of chopped parsley
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup of milk
- 1/2 cup of grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
- Provola – 1 inch x 1/2 inch “sticks” that can be placed at the center of the meatball
- Kosher salt, dried oregano, and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup of unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/2 medium sized red onion finely diced
- 1-2 pieces of garlic finely diced
- 1/2 cup of Canola oil for pan frying
As we emphasized in our meatballs with tomato sauce recipe, one of the key steps in creating world class meatballs is to not overwork the ingredients during the mixing process, however our meatballs with provola recipe does require a slightly firmer pockets of meat so that the provola will not ooze out during the frying process. A note on provola: provolone is not provola and is generally smaller and less sharp tasting. Provola melts very well as opposed to its more refined sibling. If you can’t find provola (you should be able to find it at most good Italian delis and shops),then a good quality whole milk mozzarella is a fine substitute.
In a large bowl add the ground meat, garlic, onion, grated cheese, parsley, salt and pepper, and breadcrumbs. Gently mix the ingredients by hand (do not use a mechanical mixer) until the ingredients are combined. Next, combine the egg and milk in a smaller bowl and mix well. Add the milk/egg mixture to the already combined ingredients and mix until the meat has absorbed the liquid (again keeping mind to not overwork the mixture). All mixing should be done by hand.
Next, scoop about 1 1/2 Tbsp. of the mixture into your hand and place a single piece of provola in the center of the mixture; thereafter, gently form an oglong ball making sure there is no cheese exposed. Again, do not overwork the mixture as you’re simply looking to keep the integrity of the ball shape and not to create a snowball-like meatball you can hurl through the air (tightly packing the meat will result in a very tough and dense meatball). You can make the meatballs larger but we like our meatballs on the smaller side. Next, bring the Canola oil up to heat in a large fry pan and place 6-7 meatballs in your pan being careful not to crowd the pan. You should have a medium flame going underneath your pan because you will not be finishing the meatballs in tomato sauce. The medium flame will ensure you don’t burn the meatball exterior while leaving the interior raw. I generally fry the meatballs for about 2-3 minutes on each side and then remove them to an elevated oven tray (and place them in a 200 degree C oven until they’re ready to be consumed).