Chef Jason Neroni knows how to make a meatball. The executive chef at Osteria La Buca in Los Angeles recently fed a pack of food journalists his homemade meatballs — to rave reviews. Covered ear to ear in sauce, Made Man cornered the good chef, prodded his chest with a still-dripping fork and “asked” him how to make a meatball. After several tense minutes he obliged.
Yeah, Made Man could have asked Neroni about some of the other menu items—from the sweet corn angelotti to the porchetta sandwich—but meatballs are in right now. They’re cheap, delicious, easy to make and versatile. Meatballs can be used on sandwiches, on pizza, as an appetizer or with pasta. Hoping to capitalize on their popularity, one New York restaurant owner is planning on opening a chain of meatball eateries.
There is a reason they’re popular. Meatballs are a people-pleaser. “It reminds me of being a kid,” Neroni says. “I used to eat SpaghettiO’s. That was one of my favorite things when I was a kid. I think people lean more towards things—especially in their older age—that remind them of their childhood, the things that are most comforting to them.”
A good meatball is something every man should know how to make. This is how to make a meatball, Chef Neroni-style.
5 pounds pork shoulder (or ground pork)
½ pound pancetta
½ bunch parsley
2 cups bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon chili flakes
½ cup ricotta
Mix well and roll onto 2.5 ounce balls
Roast at 450 for 5 minutes
The chef’s tips for making meatballs
Fat is good
For beef meatballs, buy a fattier ground beef, preferably ground that day.
Use fresh bread crumbs
Do not buy dry bread crumbs. Take the old bread you have at home, leave it out for a day and put it in food processor for a few seconds. The more rustic and coarse, the better
Don’t use the whole egg
Just use the yolk
Let meatballs cook through
Cook them to medium at a high temperature, then pull them out of the oven. They will continue to cook with the heat trapped inside the ball.
For something extra
Neroni likes to add smoked paprika for flavor.
Photo by Stephen Sakulsky