Grass-Fed Meatballs

Grass-fed ground beef, with less fat than conventional beef, can sometimes be a bit dry when cooked through. The mushrooms and puréed parsley in this recipe make these meatballs moist without the need for breadcrumbs. Serve tossed with marinara sauce over creamy polenta topped with garlicky sautéed Swiss chard.

Since many local meat shares include all sorts of ground meats, I’ve included variations here for pork, turkey and lamb, along with suggested spices and added ingredients that go best with each meat.

Leftover meatballs make an excellent high-protein snack. Try serving the Cherry Tarragon Turkey Meatballs on toothpicks as an hors d’oeuvre. I also love meatballs as the protein on my salad for a quick lunch, or, for a warm and comforting soup, gently drop uncooked Lemon-Ginger Asian Pork Meatballs into some homemade chicken broth to simmer with some spinach and swirl of egg and a drizzle of sesame oil. Perfect winter food.

Makes 24 meatballs

BASIC MEATBALLS
1 pound beef
2 pounds pork
8 ounces mushrooms, stemmed
2⁄3 cup parsley, packed
2 tablespoons granulated onion
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the meats in a large bowl and mix gently so as not to overwork. Place the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to form a chunky paste.

Mix the paste into the meat well, again being careful not to overwork, and form 24 golf-ball-sized meatballs. Place them, evenly spaced, onto the lined baking sheet.

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Variations:

CURRY MEATBALLS
Replace the parsley with cilantro.
Omit the thyme and oregano.
Add some madras curry powder and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

LEMON-GINGER ASIAN PORK MEATBALLS
Use all ground pork. Add a little minced mint, basil and a little less parsley.
Add grated ginger and a few teaspoons of grated lemon zest.
Omit the thyme, oregano and tomato paste.
Replace the salt with a dash of fish sauce and tamari (soy sauce).

MOROCCAN MEATBALLS
Use ground lamb instead of beef and pork.
Replace parsley with mint and cilantro.
Instead of the oregano and thyme, use some freshly grated ginger and coriander.

CHERRY TARRAGON TURKEY MEATBALLS
Use all ground dark meat turkey instead of beef and pork.
Add minced bacon to the food processor for some extra fat.
Omit the tomato paste, thyme and oregano.
Add chopped, rehydrated dried cherries and fresh tarragon.