When in doubt, go with meatballs. It’s a culinary philosophy I have lived by for years, and for good reason: Everybody loves meatballs.

Meatballs are easy, fast, fun and flavorful without being too fancy or intimidating. They’re the perfect answer for anyone stumped by the question “What’s for dinner?”

Of course, not every meatball is created equal — or Italian, for that matter. There are a million options for meatball lovers. The Italian version, typically flavored with garlic and Parmesan and swimming in marinara sauce, is the one everyone knows and loves, but it’s not the only one. Variations exist in almost every culture, from the mint- and lemongrass-scented Vietnamese meatballs, often stuffed inside a banh mi sandwich, to the small, rice-studded version from Latin America floating in the classic albondigas soup.

While most people think beef is the only option for a meatball, I find myself using ground chicken or turkey just as often. But without the fat or the bolder taste that beef adds, it is possible to end up with a dry, tough, flavorless hockey puck instead of a juicy, tender and well-seasoned sphere of goodness. To avoid this unfortunate outcome, I employ a few tricks of the meatball trade.

Milk and eggs: Adding both these ingredients will help keep meatballs moist and tender.

Flavor “enhancers”: I’m not talking about a chemical additive; I’m referring to ingredients that bump up the flavor, like garlic, ginger and Parmesan cheese, or herbs such as oregano or mint. I am heavy-handed with these types of additions; as much of the attraction to these little bites of meat lies in the fact that each one packs a flavor punch.

Handiwork: There is no better kitchen tool, especially for mixing together the ingredients for meatballs, than your hands. They make it possible to gently but thoroughly combine it all so the result is a tender meatball that holds together when cooked.

The right amount of salt and pepper: The beauty of seasoning ground meat is that you can take it for a test drive before making a final commitment. I always test my meatball, meatloaf and burger mixture to ensure the proper amount of salt and pepper by making a tiny patty and quickly sautéing it so I can taste it before finishing the dish. This takes the guesswork out of the process.

One of my many go-to meatball recipes is Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs, paired with brown rice and sautéed asparagus and edamame. It’s easy to make, and in less than 45 minutes I can have a delicious and healthy meal on the table that everybody loves, especially me.


Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com.