Are you making meatballs in a pinch and discovered that you’ve run out of eggs in the kitchen? I can just imagine the horror because I’ve had a similar experience several times myself. What I did was research and experiment on how to make meatballs without egg.
The results of my research and experiments have astonished me. I never thought that bread and milk can work as a perfect binding mixture. It doesn’t only bind your meatballs well but it also makes it tender. Learn how to make meatballs using bread and milk by reading below.
What You’ll Need
- Ground Beef
To serve 6-8 people, you may need about one (1) pound (lb) of ground beef. The ground beef will serve as your basic ingredient for your meatballs. Make sure that you choose the ground chuck kind of beef because it holds its shape more effectively while cooking. Once it’s cooked, this type of ground beef should be juicy, moist, and a bit firm.
- Ground pork
Alternatively, you can also use ground pork instead of ground beef. In comparison to beef, pork is also rich in protein, but it can be bought at a relatively lower price. If you’re conscious of your weight, then pork may also be a better choice because it contains less calories.
- Breadcrumbs and milk
In the absence of eggs, the combination of breadcrumbs and milk will work to bind your meatballs together. Using milk and breadcrumbs is also a good trick to cooking a more tender meatballs. The combination of these two ingredients provides added moisture to the meatballs and will prevent them from becoming tough.
You need to soak the breadcrumbs in a bit of milk to create a binder known as panade, a combination of starch and liquid. For every pound of ground meat, you need about 1/2 cup of panade. If you have no breadcrumbs, you can use any of these alternative ingredients.
Alternatively, you can use panko to work as a binding ingredient with milk. It is popularly used in Asian cuisine. While breadcrumbs are made using different kinds of bread, panko is solely made from white bread.
- A piece of bread
An actual bread can also replace the breadcrumbs in the binder mixture. Just tear into pieces and submerge them into the milk. The starch of the bread works well with the liquids to make a panade.
- Crumbled saltine crackers
Another great alternative to breadcrumbs is saltine crackers. Just crumble them into pieces so you can mix them with the milk easily. I personally love these crackers because they give that crunchy texture to the meatballs when cooked. If you don’t have any milk, you can substitute it with any of these alternatives.
You can choose any brand of yogurt. Just make sure that you thin the yogurt with water before you throw in the breadcrumbs. The yogurt will help cover the bread until they get soggy. I personally like this alternative because it gives that tangy flavor to my meatballs, which is a bit refreshing.
Another great alternative for milk that you can consider is buttermilk. You are free to choose any brand of buttermilk. Again, the technique is to add a bit of water to thin the consistency before you can start soaking the breadcrumbs.
- Parmesan cheese
You’ll be needing Parmesan cheese to add that creamy flavor to the meatballs. Since you’ll be simmering the meatballs in the spaghetti sauce, what better way to incorporate the cheese flavor than to mix it together with the meat?
To add flavor, you need to add seasonings like salt and pepper, depending on your preference. If you like to add more spices, you may do so. Some spices and herbs that you can consider include thyme, oregano, and basil. My secret to a subtle depth of flavor in my meatballs is nutmeg which you can also try but this is purely optional. You may add the seasonings to your meat mixture and the sauce.
- Tomato paste, water, tomato puree, and sugar
These ingredients will be used to create your spaghetti sauce. You can mix them together in a large dutch oven and simmer them down on a stove. You may need about 2 6-ounce (oz) cans of tomato paste, 4 cups of water, 1 29-oz of tomato puree, and 8 tbsp. of sugar.
- Large bowl and small bowl
You will need a large bowl to contain all the ingredients of your meatballs like: ground meat, seasonings, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, and milk. A clear bowl may be desirable to see how the ingredients are binding together. Make sure that the mouth of the bowl is large enough to make room for your hands.
The small bowl will be needed to combine breadcrumbs and milk together. You may use any small bowl that you have in your kitchen.
- Large dutch oven
A large dutch oven is needed to simmer your spaghetti sauce and meatballs. It is usually a heavy pot which can be used for both stovetop and oven cooking. Choose a size that can accommodate the volume of your sauce. If you buy a cast iron dutch oven, opt for a pre-seasoned one so you can use it immediately.
- Optional Ingredients
You have the option to make your spaghetti sauce healthy by adding some vegetables like green pepper, mushrooms, and onions. Just dice them up for better texture. Omitting these vegetables in your recipe will also be fine, but I usually add them to give a good balance of nutrients to the meat.
Thermometer and baking sheet
You need a cooking thermometer and baking sheet if you have decided to roast your meatballs in an oven instead of cooking them in the simmering sauce. Roasting the meatballs will give that additional flavor since the exterior sears in the heat of the oven.
1. Mix the all the ingredients for the sauce
In a large dutch oven, mix the tomato paste, water, tomato puree, and sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add some basil, thyme, and oregano to give that extra flavor. At this point, you may add the vegetables, like onions, mushrooms, and green pepper into the sauce. Simmer the sauce for about 3-5 minutes.
In a small bowl, place the breadcrumbs and pour them with milk. Set it aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for the meat mixture. You’ll possibly notice that the breadcrumbs will soak up the milk and turn soggy. You can soak the breadcrumbs for at least 10 minutes. Before you mix them in the meat mixture, mash with your hands or spoon until no dry spots are noticeable.
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients for the meatball mix
In a large bowl, place the Parmesan cheese and the seasonings – basil, oregano, and nutmeg. Add the ground beef and mix it together with the soaked breadcrumbs. Combine all of the ingredients thoroughly with your fingers.
Avoid overworking the meat if you would like to keep them tender. Instead of kneading the meat, try pinching the meat between your fingers.
4. Shape the mixture into balls
You can shape the balls according to your preference. Since you’ll be serving the meatballs with the spaghetti sauce, it might be best to shape them in large sizes. You can form the balls in a diameter of about 2 inches. Keep shaping until all meat mixture is used. To get an idea on how to form the mixture into balls, watch this.
5. Cook the meatballs in the sauce or oven
After you have shaped the meat mixture into balls, you can cook the meatballs along with the sauce.
- Place the meatballs in the simmering sauce.
- Cover all the meatballs with the sauce.
- Serve hot on a plate.
Instead of cooking the meatballs in the sauce, you can also brown the meatballs in the oven. Here are the steps that you should follow.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Place the meatballs on a baking sheet. Arrange them with little spaces between them.
- Place the meatballs in the preheated oven and cook for 25-30 minutes.
You’ll know that the meatballs are cooked if the thermometer inserted in the center registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Serve with the spaghetti sauce.
Pro Tips from the Experts
Use fattier meats for more tender meatballs
Kitchn suggests the use of fattier meats if you want to cook more tender meatballs. Such fatty meats include pork and beef. If you want a leaner meatball, choose the ground meat from turkey and chicken. Although you get less fat, you get a tougher meatball.
Oil your hands when shaping the balls
Bon Appetit recommends putting some oil in your hands when rolling the meatballs. You can use olive oil to lubricate your hands. This is a great remedy if you observe that the meat mixture sticks to your skin like glue.
To roll the meatball perfectly, use a light rolling motion. Mold the mixture gently by rolling it between your oiled palms, and not your fingers. Aim for a loosely shaped meatball that bonds together but is not over compressed.
Are you happy that you have gained a new knowledge on how to make meatballs without egg? This recipe was important to me because it helped me save time and effort of going to the market just to buy a dozen of eggs for my meatball recipe. Now, I realize that I can use breadcrumbs and milk as an alternative.
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