Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meat + veggie balls

I love meat balls but they have a tendency to feel a bit leaden. I don't know if it's just the sheer meatiness of them or the fact that they get manhandled as they're mixed and shaped, but they make me think of winter and huddling over heavy meals.

This recipe, on the other hand, feels positively summery. The meat gets a nice lift from copious amounts of shredded carrot and zucchini and the flavor you get from the fresh herbs is unbeatable.

grated carrots, zucchini
{grated carrots, zucchini}

The food processor is your friend here, but a little bit of elbow grease and a box grater will suffice. My carrots were straight out of my CSA box and came in a fancy variety of colors, but regular old orange ones work just as well. The veggies are sauteed and as they cool you chop herbs and plop the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Everything is gently mixed together and then you settle in for a little rolling session.

ready to bake
{ready to bake}

I like to make them on the small side, so that they can simply be picked up and popped in your mouth, no fork required. Of course, they're also amazing paired with marinara and pasta or piled on a fresh baguette.

meat + veggie ball
{meat + veggie ball}

I've played a bit with the original recipe, increasing the veggies and decreasing the meat and upping (and changing) some of the spices. I like to use fresh rosemary, oregano and thyme from my garden, but you can easily just use one or two of these, substitute dried spices, or choose different spices altogether. We also had some fresh chives lying around, so I chopped them up and tossed them in as well. The recipe is nothing if not forgiving.
Meat + veggie balls (adapted from The California Cook by Diane Rossen Worthington - serves 6 - 8)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 - 4 medium carrots,* finely grated)
2 medium (not massive!) zucchini,* finely grated
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/3 cup fine dried breadcrumbs
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I use Sierra Nevada Porter mustard, always)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
2 teaspoons finely chopped oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (nice, but you're okay without it)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

:: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onions and saute them for 7 - 10 minutes, stirring often, until they're soft and translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the carrots and zucchini and cook for another 10 - 15 minutes, until the mixture is tender (but not mushy) and sweet. Set aside to cool.

:: Add all the other ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Once the veggies are cooled, add them as well. Using a large wooden spoon (or your hands, if you aren't grossed out) mix everything together until evenly combined.

:: Preheat the oven to 375 F. Have a couple of baking sheets ready, lined with aluminum foil or with a Silpat. Start with slightly damp hands and roll the mixture into meatballs that are about the size of a ping pong ball, or a bit smaller if you want dainty appetizers. Bake for 35 minutes (5 - 10 minutes less if you're going for a smaller size). 
These can easily be baked ahead and then re-heated to serve. I like to just eat them cold out of the refrigerator sometimes. Classy.

*The recipe tells you to peel your veggies first, which is probably a good idea if they're the standard supermarket quality. If they're organic and young, I would recommend leaving them alone and using them peel and all.


  1. Sometimes I think about being a vegetarian. Then I see recipes like this, and realize that that could never, ever happen.

  2. Thank you for these! This reminds me of an old Jane Brody recipe for meat loaf with lots of veggies. I definitely want to try these.

  3. I made meatballs last night. With ground turkey. A nice substitute & lower in fat. I'm gonna try adding carrots and zucchini next time. Looks so yummy!

  4. This looks delish! I also just found this cookbook on Amazon for 6 cents!! (3.99 shipping)! Thanks:)

  5. These look so good! I currently have homemade bread in the oven and this makes me look forward to even more homemade food! :) good job!



  6. Yum. I can't wait to try this recipe!


    charmed earth

  7. Those sound amazing! I will have to give them a try.

  8. This looks delicious! I love the color of the veggies in the meatballs!

  9. these are such a perfect balance of a light veggie dish with the heartiness of meat. definitely going to give these a try!

  10. These sound so good! And what a great way to sneak in a few more veggies. I am going to have to give this version a try.

  11. Another delicious recipe that I must try. You are good!

  12. These look fantastic, and might be just the thing to calm the random meat craving I've had this week but generally try to avoid preparing at home...thank you for sharing!

  13. Thanks for posting this! My daughter has been requesting meatballs for weeks now, but since we are normally a vegetarian (except for bacon, of course) household I was hesitant to make such a huge batch of meaty goodness. Cutting the meat with veggies is brilliant!

  14. These look great, and I agree with you about regualr meatballs seeming so heavy and wintery. I can't wait to try these!

  15. I really want to try these - sound lovely.

  16. i just made these for dinner (substituting it with turkey and manchego cheese) and man, oh man, my tummy is happy. thank you!

  17. I made these last night for dinner and they were really good! We made meat ball subs with them and every one loved them! I have a few extra's so I am going to freeze them for a quick dinner for our littles sometime when we are in a pinch.

  18. So glad you guys are enjoying this!

    @ abby - they freeze really well! I try to remember to pull them out of the freezer in the morning, if I want them that night, but I've also had last minute meal emergencies where I just tossed them into a pot of spaghetti sauce while they were still frozen and heated them up gently. Worked perfectly.

  19. Sounds and looks DELICIOUS! I love veggies. I'm gonna have to try this recipe. thanks for sharing!

  20. hmm this sounds like a good way to use up some courgettes (what we call zucchinis in england!). i've been growing some in my garden and i'm over run with them a bit haha

  21. Just wanted to let you know that I tried these and am now writing a post about them. AWESOME! And another great food idea to include in my kids' lunch! Thanks so much!


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