Makes at least 60 meatballs
1 1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup fine dried breadcrumbs
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef,
1 pound ground veal
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
3/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
About 4 tbsps finely chopped fresh sage, from 2 small herb bunches
1 1/2 cups finely diced onion
4 large garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 large eggs, beaten
Pour the milk over the breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Stir them together and set them aside for at least 10 minutes for the crumbs to soften.
Mix the pork, beef and veal together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the salt and a generous amount of black pepper, then add the cayenne and smoked paprika.
Stir in the chopped parsley, sage, onion, garlic and Parmesan. Mix with your hands until these are very thoroughly distributed through the meat.
Stir in the breadcrumbs and milk, as well as the eggs, and mix thoroughly.
Shape and cook the meatballs immediately, or refrigerate the meat for up to 24 hours. You can also freeze the meat (in one big lump or as shaped meatballs) in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
To cook the meatballs, you can go a few different routes:
1. Bake: To bake the meatballs, heat the oven to 350°F and form them into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until they are just barely cooked through and no longer pink inside. To keep them tender, do not overbake. At this point you can add them to a pot of tomato sauce and simmer just for a few moments or until they are soaked in sauce -- or just eat them as they are.
2. Broil: The baked meatballs above are very smooth and not crispy. If you like a more rustic meatball with a crisped-up exterior, broil your meatballs for 18 to 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. This will give you a meatball with a crunchier exterior and little dark bits all over.
3. Simmer: You can also cook meatballs directly in your pasta sauce. To do this, carefully place raw meatballs into a pot of gently simmering tomato sauce, making sure they are fully covered. Cook over low heat for at least 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are fully cooked through and no longer pink inside. This makes for a very smooth, very tender meatball. If you want a little bit of crispiness to the meatballs in the sauce, you can sear them or broil them briefly and then finish cooking them in the sauce.