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Our Essential Meatball Guide

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There are few foods out there as dependable, comforting, and versatile as the humble meatball. You could easily go ahead and give your mama's beef and breadcrumb meatball a home in a pot of red sauce and a bowl of spaghetti, tuck your napkin into your shirt collar, and call it a night. But much like its cousin, the meatloaf, there are countless combinations of meats, spices, and preparations that can make a meatball great.

If you're looking to branch out from your regular meatball and macaroni routine, or just want a bit more gusto than what you'd expect at the checkered tablecloth joint down the road, here's a look at the wide world of meatballs, and how to choose the one that's right for you:

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Photo by James Ransom

The quintessential "Italian"

You know, the meatball that infamously sat on top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese? These recipes are for that meatball. Italian-twinged in flavor and ready for your meat sauce, they're the perfect accompaniment to pasta. Try this ultra tender recipe, which incorporates ricotta, or give this Genius method for the classic combination a shot.

Rao's Meatballs

Rao's Meatballs by Genius Recipes

Truly Tender Meatballs in Rich Tomato Sauce

Truly Tender Meatballs in Rich Tomato Sauce by lastnightsdinner

The multipurpose meatball

You could argue that any meatball is a multi-purpose meatball, but these recipes are especially so because they create flavor profiles that are so basic, they can be easily manipulated to fit any of your meatball needs. Put them on a sandwich, eat them on pasta, tuck them into a salad, or just go at them with your fingers (trust me, you'll want to).

Extra Tender Meatballs
Extra Tender Meatballs
Meatballs with Tomato and Zucchini

Meatballs with Tomato and Zucchini by Merrill Stubbs

Kefta-Style Meatballs with Grilled Grapes and Yogurt Sauce

Kefta-Style Meatballs with Grilled Grapes and Yogurt Sauce by roseinparis

Meatballs made with poultry

Many meatball recipes focus on the likes of beef, pork, or lamb (or some combination of the three), but this does not always have to be the case. Poultry, like chicken or duck, can make an equally tasty meatball mixture, and offer a great alternative for anyone looking to lighten up a meal while maintaining an element of meat.

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Duck Meatballs à L’Orange

Duck Meatballs à L’Orange by QueenSashy

Chicken Sausage Meatball and Broccoli Pasta Bowl

Chicken Sausage Meatball and Broccoli Pasta Bowl by inpatskitchen

Greek Chicken Meatballs

Greek Chicken Meatballs by foxeslovelemons

Chicken Meatball Sub with Gobs of Fresh Mozzarella

Chicken Meatball Sub with Gobs of Fresh Mozzarella by Erin McDowell

The meat-less, er...meatball

Not everyone eats meat, but that doesn't mean they should be excluded from such an ingenious dish. These recipes use pantry staples like lentils and nuts, as well as the leftovers greens you have on hand, to riff on the meatball concept.

Fried Greens Meatlessballs

Fried Greens Meatlessballs by Alexandra Stafford

Lentil Meatballs with Indian Fenugreek Sauce

Lentil Meatballs with Indian Fenugreek Sauce by feastingathome

Split Pea "Meatballs" with Pistachio Yogurt
Split Pea "Meatballs" with Pistachio Yogurt

The multi-cultural meatball

In America, meatballs are usually tied to Italian imagery—simmering tomato sauce, swirls of pasta, and Italian-American inspired meatball heroes—but these recipes switch up that flavor profile to create a multi-cultural twist on the taste we have come to expect. If you're looking from an unexpected update on your meatballs, try a Swedish classic, a recipe with a spicy-sweet Korean kick, or a hearty, Hungarian mixture.

Old-School Swedish Meatballs
Old-School Swedish Meatballs
 Spicy Korean-Style Gochujang Meatballs

Spicy Korean-Style Gochujang Meatballs by foxeslovelemons

Shanghainese Lion's Head Meatballs

Shanghainese Lion's Head Meatballs by cynthia | two red bowls

Hungarian Meatballs

Hungarian Meatballs by Bogre

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce by MySocialChef

Meatballs, and then some

Meatballs are great all on their own (see above for proof), but that doesn't mean your meal has to be completely meatball-forward. These soup recipes include meatballs, but only as one piece of a greater, well-rounded dish.

Cabbage and Meatball Soup

Cabbage and Meatball Soup by Donna

Turkish Yogurt Soup with Lamb Meatballs

Turkish Yogurt Soup with Lamb Meatballs by fiveandspice

Still don't know what you're looking for?

If you still can't make up your mind about meatballs, that's okay! Learn how to make any meatball you can dream up without a recipe.

How to Make Any Meatballs in 5 Steps
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How to Make Any Meatballs in 5 Steps

How do you make meatballs? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: Round ups, meatball, meat, italy week, italian cooking