I know rave about cooking and prepping food in advance as much as possible. Heck, I’ve even written an entire cookbook that relies on it! But have I ever told you that it all started with figuring out a list of meals using meatballs?
See, once upon a time my husband decided to make meatballs for an office party so, on the way home from work, he stopped by the store to pick up some ground beef. Now, until that day the I’d ever seen him cook were steaks, and since he’d never made meatballs before he had no idea how much ground beef to buy. Being a man who loves meat, he bought fifteen pounds of it. Let that sink in: fifteen pounds of ground beef.
Then he came home, found my meatball recipe, and proceeded to mix all fifteen pounds of ground beef with the other ingredients. By hand. I walked in to find him elbow-deep in the mixture, my kitchen a complete wreck, and a look of profound confusion on his face.
“I don’t think I’ll need all of this,” he said. “Maybe we should freeze some?”
When I was done laughing, I agreed with him, and so we spent the next several hours shaping and baking meatballs. Four dozen were mixed with homemade tomato sauce and sent in a crockpot to his office the next day. The remaining 130 or so were popped into vacuum-seal bags and stashed in my freezer for future meals.
And that is why I came up with a list of meals using meatballs. Wouldn’t you?
Now, I know not everyone wants to make 180 meatballs at a time, so the meatball recipe below is for 12 meatballs, roughly enough to feed a family of four for one night. But, hey, if you want to make enough meatballs for a month or an entire year, like we did, feel free to multiply the recipe!
Meatballs freeze well when set on a baking sheet, so they’re not touching. Once frozen solid, transfer them to a resealable bag where they’ll keep for up to a month, or vacuum seal them and they’ll stay good for a year. Voice of experience on that.
- 1 lb ground beef (no leaner than 85%)
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. dried oregano
- 2 tbsp. dried parsley
- ⅓ cup dried bread crumbs
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients in large bowl, mixing by hand.
- Shape into 1-inch meatballs.
- To cook: bake in a 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Meatballs can be frozen before or after cooking by placing on a cookie sheet and freezing, then transferring to a plastic freezer bag.
Meals Using Meatballs
In general, 3-4 meatballs is a good portion size. Each recipe below serves 4, but you can adjust as needed for your family.
Meatball and Vegetable Soup
Bring 3 cups of beef broth to a boil. Add a 15-oz can of diced tomatoes (with juice), one can white beans (drained), one bay leaf, 2 cups sliced fresh vegetables (potatoes, celery, and carrots work well) or 1 bag frozen vegetables. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add 12-16 cooked meatballs straight from the freezer. Bring back to a simmer and season to taste. Serve with crusty bread.
Meatball Sub Sandwiches
Split and toast 4 Italian-style rolls. Meanwhile, combine 12-16 meatballs, 1 cup easy marinara sauce, 1/2 tsp. each garlic powder and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 5 minutes. Spoon meatballs and sauce on half of a split roll, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and top with the other half of the roll. Bake at 350°F until cheese melts.
Spaghetti and meatballs
Saute two minced garlic cloves and 1 small onion, minced, in some extra virgin olive oil. Add 12-16 meatballs, one 28-oz can of pureed tomatoes, 1 tsp. each dried oregano and dried basil. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasonings to taste. Meanwhile, boil a package of spaghetti noodles according to package directions. Stir 1/4 c. of the pasta water into the sauce. Drain the noodles, return to pan and add sauce, stirring carefully to combine. Serve with green salad.
Roll 12-16 defrosted meatballs in 1 cup instant rice, pressing it into the meat carefully. Meanwhile, in a large skillet combine 1 can of tomato soup, 1/2 can water and 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce. Add meatballs, bring to boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until rice is tender.
Almost Famous Swedish Meatballs
Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a skillet. Whisk in 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Add 3 cups chicken broth, whisking constantly to combine. Raise heat to medium-high and stir in 1/2 heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon dill leaves, 1 pinch of white sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Simmer, frequently stirring, 5 minutes until sauce is thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Carefully stir in 12-16 defrosted meatballs until they’re all coated with sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 5 minutes until meatballs are warmed through.
So there you have it, five meals using meatballs just in case your spouse comes home with 15 pounds of ground beef from the store one day.
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