Sunday, July 17, 2011

Goat Cheese Meatballs (with Spaghetti)

Ground beef
Sour cream
Bread crumbs
Goat cheese (crumbled)
Onion flakes
Garlic powder
Greek seasoning
Dried chopped onions
Spaghetti and Sauce
Everything from "Spaghetti with Meat Sauce" recipe, minus the ground beef.

I don't know if it's long tradition or just plain asshoishness that makes recipes for classic Italian foods so harshly debated and highly prized. Virtually everyone with an Italian last name has their great-grandmother's sauce recipe which, they claim, is better than a hummer from an Italian supermodel (pictured). In this respect, no food is more argued about than the simple, hard-working meatball. We're talking about a world of Italians ready to take a bat to anyone who would dare question their nonna's culinary expertise.
Yeah, well fuck that. My meatballs are firm yet melt in your mouth. Plus, they're all beef (no need for sausage or veal) which means you avoid having to make two pounds of balls every time you have the Italiano craving... and you will have this craving. Oh yes. My meatballs aren't even Italian; they're Greek, and you know what they say about Greeks: we're great cooks, great in the sack, and shitty with money. To add the pièce de résistance... goat cheese. Because goat cheese makes everything better. Suck it, Italy. Or, should I say, succhiare Italia.

A Word About Goat Cheese
Goat cheese has a taste similar to feta, though it's not as salty, since feta is brined. Other than being generally delicious, it has a few properties that make it great in meatballs. First, it doesn't really melt: it softens considerably but remains viscous enough that it won't get runny. This means your balls won't fall apart on you. It also really mellows out the acidity of the tomato sauce. Plus, it's non-dairy, so all you lactose intolerant folks can go hog wild.

1. You're going to have to follow two recipes to make this dish as given: this one, and my spaghetti with meat sauce recipe. It's simple... just prepare your sauce minus the ground beef. We can start out by putting your pot of water on to boil and getting out your trusty square cake pan. Square cake pans: the fucking Swiss army knife of cookwear. If you don't have one, get one. You can use a cookie sheet if you must, but know that it makes me think less of you. Coat your pan with olive oil and toss it in your oven, set to preheat at 350. Getting the pan nice and hot will really give us a good exterior texture to our balls.

2. Get out a large mixing bowl and throw in an egg. Beat it like you caught it fucking your wife.

Now you'll add the following, and be diligent with the measure: meatballs are notorious for falling apart or getting shoe-leather tough if you add too much of one thing.
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 pound of ground beef
2 tbsp sour cream
and your spices (basil, Greek seasoning, dried chopped onions, ground red pepper, and salt)

Mix by hand. Really get in there and make sure everything is looking nice and even when you're done.

Now we add the goat cheese.. about a fourth of a cup, or roughly as much as you see in the picture.

Now knead the goat cheese gently into your meat, much like you would turn a pizza dough or play with boobs. The heat caused by your hand will cause the cheese to soften, making this really easy. Form it into a nice, big ball.

From your large ball come your smaller balls... about golf ball size. The mixture should be pliable with a tacky, but not sticky feel. You'll be amazed at how easy this is and how well everything melds together. Some people recommend using an ice cream scoop here... that's only for lesser recipes. Your cheese should be soft enough now that you can very easily shape it with the meat. You should get between 14 and 16 balls.

3. Get your hot pan out of the oven and insert your balls. Press them gently against the bottom of the pan to create a bit of a flattened base to keep them from rolling around. Toss the pan back in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Now is a good time to put your sauce on the stove (as directed, minus ground beef)

...and toss your spaghetti in to boil. This way, everything should finish at roughly the same time.

4. After 15 minutes, remove your balls from the oven. You should get something like this. Notice how, despite a pretty long time in a hot oven, the cheese is still rather firm.

Turn your oven temperature up to 400 and flip your meatballs carefully with a pair of tongs. As you can see, where the balls meet the pan has yielded a nice, firm crust. Toss these back in the over for about 5 minutes to finish things up.

6. Once the 5 minutes is up, get your balls out of the oven. Now we've come to the real test of a great meatball: how well it stands up to being mixed into your sauce. No problem. Gently fold them in, then cover and simmer your sauce for a few minutes to lock everything together.

Plate your spaghetti, cover with your sauce and meatballs, add on some mozz, and enjoy. Note: not once did I make a joke about balls, but I tried to make sure there was enough material for you to make plenty of your own. That's my gift to you.

UPDATE 07/24/11 - Sebastien, the owner of the hilarious blog Chipster Diaries, did me the great honor of preparing this dish and posting about it. He did this under great peril, as he lives in France and I am a known enemy of the state there. You should go check it out, before the French version of Seal Team 6¹ busts into his château and takes him out.

¹This is obviously a joke. Why would France even NEED an elite seal team? To deliver the envelopes marked "surrender"?


  1. Well, this is damn brilliant. Makes me wanna go out and buy a pound of weird, I know it's goat's milk but it's hard for me to remember that it's "non-dairy"
    One of my favorite cheeses and one of the easiest great cheese to get in America. Rock on with your bad self, Chief!

  2. Thank you very much. If you make them, feel free to shoot me a picture... I'd love to attach it to the post.

  3. Erin and I did end up making these, and they were such a blast I wrote a post about them:
    They were great- we had to improvise some of the quantities, but the meatballs came out perfectly coherent with lovely bits of goat cheese in the middle, and drenched as they were in tomato sauce, made an irresistably tasty whole. Thanks for the idea!

  4. I am honored. Thank you both very much.

  5. These are godly.... truly F'ing bad ass... you the man Pappas!

  6. These were the best damn meatballs I ever made, and mine are usually very fine already!