Cast Iron

The Tiniest Meatballs

October 11, 2018
Photo by Jenny Huang
Author Notes

My Tiniest Meatballs have a few tricks up their (size XXXS) sleeves, to pack maximum flavor while requiring the least amount of work—making them my all-time favorite easy weeknight meatball. They call in sweet Italian sausage, rather than plain old ground pork, so you get a couple of extras on the seasoning front: fennel seeds, dried parsley, onion powder, in most blends. They also let you skip all of the chopping and mincing of herbs and garlic and stale bread—instead, you just blitz it together in a food processor, in a flash. And finally, they invite ricotta to the party, because they don't want you to find them too dense. The ricotta in these tiny meatballs add extra tenderness to their interiors that serves as a perfect foil to the crisped-as-heck exteriors.

One note on that: I've included cornstarch as optional in the recipe. If you give these teeny spheres a good roll-around in the stuff (then shake it off!) before frying, you're in for a crazy-crispy crust. (Hazan called for her tiny meatballs to be rolled in flour for the same reason.) But, if you're not planning to toss your 'balls with a sauce to serve, you might want to go au naturel on the exterior to avoid the light white shell that'll form in certain spots with the cornstarch. Either way, you'll get super solid browning. —Ella Quittner

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: We Dare You Not to Eat One Million Of These Teeny, Tiny Meatballs. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
The Tiniest Meatballs
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 12 minutes
  • Makes 70-75 1-inch meatballs
Ingredients
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup torn stale bread and crust, or about 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley and basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup ricotta
  • 5 sweet Italian sausages (about 16-ounces), uncased
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (or enough to come up about 1/2-inch on the sides of your skillet)
  • 1 pound pasta, to serve (optional)
  • 4 cups your favorite sauce, to serve (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, to serve (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a food processor, blend garlic, stale bread pieces (or breadcrumbs), parsley, basil, salt, red pepper, and nutmeg until finely chopped and fully combined, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add the ricotta, sausage meat, and the mixture from the food processor, and gently mix it all by hand until homogenous. To test seasoning, fry a tiny piece of the mixture in a skillet until cooked through. Then, add salt to the raw mixture if needed.
  3. If using cornstarch for an extra crispy exterior, sprinkle it onto a large, dry plate. Take about a teaspoon of the meat mixture, gently form a ball with your palms, then very lightly roll in the cornstarch just to coat. Set aside. (If you're not using the cornstarch, just form the ball and set aside.) Repeat with the remainder of mixture—you should get about 70 to 75 meatballs with a roughly 1-inch diameter. (I promise, this'll go more quickly than you'd think.)
  4. In a cast iron skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs gently with a slotted spatula, and fry for about 3 minutes on each side, until they have a crispy brown shell all around. Remove one meatball with a slotted spoon and cut it open to test for doneness. Once done, remove all of the meatballs with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. (Depending on your skillet size, you can do this in two batches to avoid overcrowding.)
  5. To serve, toss with your favorite pasta and cozy sauce, and top with an irresponsibly large sprinkling of Parmesan.

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Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner.