Just the word meatball is enough to bring to mind great family meals for most people. These little balls of various meats can be found throughout the world in almost every culture. Most people may associate them with Italian cuisine, though spaghetti and meatballs is actually an American dish. No matter your background, you can jump in and enjoy National Meatball Day!
History of National Meatball Day
Meatballs are made by taking ground or minced meat such as beef, pork or lamb, mixing it with spices, breadcrumbs, eggs or other ingredients and then rolling it into a ball to be cooked. Cooking methods vary and include frying, braising or baking.
This delicious invention has been documented in culinary records many times throughout history. There’s a record of a Chinese recipe that may date back to 221 BC, and Ancient Rome can also make a claim on meatballs thanks to a surviving cookbook that holds a variety of recipes with balls of meat!
Meatballs have also long been a staple of Persian cuisine, from which the technique of ‘gilding’ (coating or glazing the meatballs) originated. Known as kofta, they are consumed across the Middle East and Asia, with vegetarian versions particularly common in India. There is also a very popular version in Turkey called köfte, which has many different variations.
Although meatballs originated in the East and in Europe, they eventually made their way over to the US and are now well-loved there. The Americans also found new and inventive ways to consume their meatballs, including on pizza and in long sandwiches (known as subs).
Nowadays the dish is also commonly associated with Sweden thanks to the popularity of Swedish furniture chain IKEA’s meatballs. In fact, IKEA sells a whopping billion meatballs every year – nothing like tucking into this tasty meal after a hard day’s shopping!
It’s easy to see that people have been enjoying meatballs for a very long time and all around the world.
Top tips for cooking mouth-watering meatballs
Although there’s a whole range of ways to make this food, it’s worth having a few key tricks up your sleeve.
First off – the ingredients. Meatballs should be well seasoned with salt and other spices, and it’s also a good idea to add in some fresh herbs such as parsley or basil to get some greens in there! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even stuff your meatballs with additions such as cheese or form them around other foods, for example, eggs.
Next – constructing the perfect meatball. Meatballs can be whatever size you like, and there are also several flattened versions, so you don’t even need to achieve the classic ball shape! Whatever you go for, it’s always worth wetting or lightly oiling your hands, as this prevents the ingredients from sticking to you. Also, make sure to give your meatballs a good squeeze to help them bind together.
Finally – cooking. If you’re frying them, then make sure they’ve seared well on one side before turning them as this will prevent them from falling apart. It’s also great to let your meatballs stew as part of the cooking process, allowing them to soak up more delicious flavor. There are a whole host of possible accompaniments for your meatballs – sauces, gravies, curries, and soups depending on which part of the world your recipe is taken from. Other common meatball pairings include potatoes, pasta, rice and jam.
However you make your meatballs, remember to make a large enough batch so that all your friends and family will get to try them!
How to celebrate National Meatball Day
National Meatball Day, like other culinary holidays, should be enjoyed with your loved ones gathered around. The most difficult part of preparing for National Meatball Day is going to be picking what nation’s recipe you will use. Luckily for you, this is a yearly occurrence, so you can pick a new nation to try each year if you like. Or you could be truly adventurous and try more than one at a time!
What is your favorite way to enjoy meatballs? There are so many ways to make them. Have you added them to your pizza or on a sandwich? Do you prefer to stick to the traditions of your family or to try and create something new? This is the time to shine – an entire day devoted to meatball goodness! And even if you’re not a meat-eater, there are plenty of veggie and vegan alternatives available, for example, chickpea koftas and tempeh, quinoa or black bean meatballs.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a chef or a first-time cook. Making a meal with meatballs is easy but has the wonderful side effect of making you look like the star of your kitchen. Just do a search with your favorite search engine for meatball recipes and pick the one that sounds yummy (that might be all of them!). And if you’d really like to learn from the best, then why not sign up for a cooking class as well?
Meatballs can be an appetizer, a side dish or the star of the meal. To celebrate, you and your friends who like to cook can have a playful evening by getting each person to bring their own and then selecting a favorite – think of it as a cook-off! With a little craftiness, a prize could even be offered to grace the winner’s mantle.
If you’d rather not cook, then head over to a nearby restaurant that serves meatballs – here you can really put your feet up and enjoy delicacies from the experts! And they may well have special offers and discounts available to celebrate the day.
Once you’ve had your fill, cozy up on the couch and crash out with a meatball-related movie such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (a film about an inventor who accidentally causes giant food, including meatballs, to rain from the sky!) or Lady and the Tramp (featuring the famous spaghetti eating scene in which Tramp lovingly gives Lady the last meatball). However you indulge on National Meatball Day, don’t forget to record your adventure by taking a few pictures and sharing them on social media!