Servings: 16 Prep: 30 min Cook: 10 min Total: 1 hr
There are a variety of things I go bananas for. Ice cream is an obvious one. Clearly, I’m a bacon nut. While I don’t have any recipes for it, I happen to be very fond of water.
I’m also a massive fan of sausage!
Sausage is basically a lean meat, ground in a chilled environment and emulsified with fat. Spices and other flavorings are added. Then, typically, this blob of smooth, speckled, seasoned meat is stuffed into a casing. From there, much of it is delicately poached in hot water, some of it is smoked, and some of it is simply packaged raw to be cooked up another day.
I’m a fan of all of this.
Some grocery stores have upwards of 20 to 30 different flavors of sausage, ranging from basic and simple, to spicy and ethnic. While these are all fantastic on their own, they can be split and used in sandwiches, cut up and used in soups or sauces, I’m personally a huge fan of making warm salads with them, and so on. They function as an ever-changing base of easy fat and protein.
BUT! This elaborate assortment can come at a cost. Sausages aren’t always cheap. They aren’t always made with the best ingredients. They aren’t always “pure meaty goodness”, with some containing cheap fillers and sugary or starchy wonkiness that can gum up the works.
A more affordable approach is to whip up a tasty batch at home. This gives me total control over the ingredients being used, it allows me the ability control the fat to protein ratio, it gives me enormous flexibility in the flavors, and it’s frequently far more affordable. It can be a bit gross, though.
Worth it! But… yeah.
I’m going to skip all the home ground meat chat, simply because it’s a big topic covered elsewhere and just jump straight into ingredients you can purchase from the store. I’m also not going to stuff this into casings, as that’s a step I doubt many will do. However, I may get into that, someday. It’s a topic that holds a lot of interest for me. I have little doubt I’ll venture down that path, someday… Stay tuned!
Finally, the big underlying message here is that you can make your own basic, base sausage meat, in bulk, and use it in a variety of ways. Make a massive 20 lb. (9kg) batch, allowing you to buy your meat in bulk, saving some money, mix it up, then divide into a variety of portions. Freeze a few 1 lb. (454g) bricks intended for a delightful meat sauce, when the time comes. Form a baking tray’s worth of meatballs, set into the freezer, then package your frozen orbs in sealable, plastic freezer bags to be plunked into hot soups, big, meaty meatball sandwiches, tossed with some zoodles, and more.
In the example from the photos, I formed my meatballs, heated up a large sauté pan over high heat, sprinkled some olive oil around the pan, then seared my balls until golden. Once they had a nice caramel color, I added garlic, capers, sliced roasted peppers, sliced sun-dried tomatoes, chopped olives, and a bit of salt and pepper. I sauteed for another moment or two, until the meatballs were cooked through. Then, I poured my meal into a large bowl, drizzled a nice olive oil all over the top and garnished with shaved parmesan cheese. An outstanding little meal, taking only a few moments to throw together!
Having this bulk, raw, Italian sausage hanging out, in a variety of forms, in the freezer can yield a wide net of future options.
Pork Tip: I’m using ground pork as my base. Most ground pork is roughly 85% muscle meat, ground with roughly 15% pork fat. I personally prefer a ratio closer to 70/30, giving me a more calorie dense, higher fat product. This is a big reason for grinding my own. When out shopping, I suggest looking for the highest fat ratio you can find, avoiding any ground pork reading “lean”. Fat is good. Fat is flavor. You can also potentially find some butchers who will grind up a batch tailored to your own needs. Call or ask around to see if you can track down a ground pork with a 70/30 mix. That’s the sweet spot!
Italian MeatballsPrint Pin Rate
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large white onion peeled and finely diced
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp whole fennel seed
- 5 lbs. ground pork (70/30 lean to fat is best)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tsp paprika
- salt, pepper, and chili flakes, to taste
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the olive to the pan and swirl it around. Add the onions and garlic to the pan along with a bit of salt and pepper. Stir to coat with the oil and seasoning. Cook until the onions soften and become translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Once the onions are soft and translucent, transfer them to a plate or baking tray and place in the refrigerator, to chill.
- If you have a spice/coffee grinder, you use for spices or nuts, or a mortar and pestle, give the fennel seeds a super quick whir in the grinder, or a quick mush in the mortar. The idea is to somewhat crush or pulverize them into a wider array of fennel bits. Whole will be fine, but they won’t distribute as easily, and the occasional bite may be quite strong. If you somewhat coarsely chop them, you’ll get a better distribution, while still getting the nice, occasional pop of fennel taste.
- Combine the chilled onion mixture, ground pork, basil, parsley, fennel seed, and paprika in a large bowl. If you want to spice it up, add some chili flakes. Mix the ingredients together, thoroughly.
- Portion your meat into a variety of uses, whether it is bricks, patties, and/or meatballs. This recipe is focused on meatballs, so the suggestion is to take all or a portion of the bulk Italian sausage and form it into individual, similarly sized balls. I use a small ice cream scoop for this, in that it gives me uniformly sized balls. I drop each ball onto a parchment lined baking tray and just keep scooping until the tray is full, or I’m out of meat. Then, I take a second pass and rub eat meatball between my palms, giving them a nice, smooth, round shape, then place them back on the tray.
- At this point, you can use them, freeze them raw, or cook them and freeze. I personally like to sauté them, over high heat, in a large sauté pan with a bit of salt and pepper and a good amount of olive oil. Sear the outside, tossing them to get a nice sear on most of the surface area. Then, place them on a freshly parchment-lined baking tray and place in the freezer, to freeze. Once they are frozen, package them in sealable, plastic freezer bags, or vacuum pack them. Place back in the freezer. These are seared and almost completely cooked through. At this point, you can use them straight from the freezer, just cooking them long enough to heat them all the way through!
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