While I was growing up, mini meatballs were the stars of the appetizer table at all our family get togethers. And let me tell you, my family excelled in hors d’oeuvres before anyone knew how to spell those two words. (It only took me a minor in French to get it right.)
Those meatballs never varied: they arrived at the party in my aunt Anne’s harvest gold chafing dish wading in a molasses-colored sauce that was sweet and vinegary as ketchup and sticky. Games of hide-and-seek and dress up were oft interrupted for side trips to the buffet table to stab a few of those babies on a toothpick. By the time supper rolled around, we kids were too stuffed to eat anything more.
I went for years and years without thinking about meatballs, but having 30 pounds of ground beef in your freezer has a funny way of shaping your thoughts. Cece regularly asks for spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. (And I can accommodate her, confident that this ground beef is nothing but nice, lean trim–no fillers of any kinds, including that hotly debated pink one–traceable to a single animal.)
What keeps me interested in meatball making is all the things you can mix into your mixture. I experimented with all kinds of ingredients while recipe testing for my cookbook. Most, like bulgur, ricotta, and rice worked great. Tofu? Not so much. It had a weird spongy texture and the recipe didn’t make the cut.
Endlessly enamored of Thai food, I recently swayed my mixture to that region and served skewers of meatballs over rice noodles. Next time, I’m going Middle Eastern and flavoring them with sumac to serve over a pile of couscous.
No matter the flavors, I always make them little. That way, they’re pretty much irresistible to anyone at any age.