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Easy dinner recipes: Meatball ideas for a variety of dishes

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It doesn't get much more versatile than meatballs. Whether you add them to pasta or soups, stuff them in sandwiches or simply savor them on their own, they're an easy comfort food classic

Loaded meatballs: Classic meatballs are like meatloaf, but in miniature. These come together with a handful of ingredients, and, in this recipe, are served with a liquor-"loaded" beef-based sauce. Skip the sauce if you'd like for a basic marinara, and serve over pasta or tucked into a tender roll for a hearty sandwich.

Grilled lamb meatballs: For a slight twist on this classic, use ground lamb as your base, flavoring the mixture with fresh mint and garlic, cumin and a touch of Aleppo pepper. Stuff the meatballs in tender fig leaves and throw on the grill for a dinner that comes together in about an hour.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Albondigas: Albondigas is the Spanish name for meatballs, and is also the name for a hearty soup, here flavored with fresh tomatillos and cilantro.

You can find the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

MORE RECIPES: 99 ADDITIONAL easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

LOADED MEATBALLSTotal time: 1 hour
Servings: 6

Note: Adapted from "Our Man in the Kitchen" by Hyman Goldberg. The meatballs are best made one day before serving; this allows the flavors to develop. Serve the meatballs warmed with the sauce or on a toasted hoagie roll.MEATBALLS1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 slice stale white bread, crust removed and ground to fine crumbs

1/4 cup water

In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, salt, pepper, ketchup, bread crumbs and water. Roll a heaping tablespoon into a 1-inch meatball, continuing until all of the mixture is used. You should have about 3 1/2 dozen meatballs.SAUCE2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Meatballs

1 small onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 cup beef broth

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon flour

1/2 cup bourbon

1/4 cup sweet vermouth

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. In a large, heavy-bottom skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Fry half of the meatballs until golden brown on all sides. Strain the meatballs into a clean bowl, then wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and repeat with the remaining oil and meatballs. Strain the remaining meatballs into the bowl, this time leaving the fat in the pan.

2. Reduce the heat to medium, and stir the onions and garlic into the fat. Cook until the onions are soft but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the bitters, broth, mustard, flour, bourbon, vermouth and oregano and bring to a boil. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and is reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes.

3. Return the meatballs to the pan and stir into the sauce. Simmer just until the meatballs are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately, or refrigerate and reheat before serving.

Each serving: 346 calories; 22 grams protein; 7 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 19 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 107 mg. cholesterol; 675 mg. sodium.GRILLED LAMB MEATBALLS IN FIG LEAVES
Total time: About 1 hour
Servings: 6

Note: Soak the skewers in water while you're assembling the packets. Serve with raita (see recipe).

24 fig leaves

1 pound ground lamb

1/2 pound ground pork

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

Wooden skewers for grilling

1 1/2 cups raita

1. Blanch the leaves, a few at a time, in boiling water until softened slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl of ice water, then drain, pat dry and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the lamb, pork, garlic, mint, parsley, salt, cumin, Aleppo and black peppers and onion until well-combined.

3. Place a leaf on the work surface, vein side up and stem facing you. Snip off the stem. Form about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a meatball and place it on the leaf centered and toward the bottom. Fold the bottom of the leaf up over the meatball, then fold in the sides and roll up tightly, tucking in the sides as you go. Run a skewer through the middle. Continue until all the leaves are filled, placing four stuffed leaves on each skewer.

4. Grill over medium-low heat, turning often, until the fig leaves are browned but not burned and the meatballs have cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately, unwrapping the leaves and discarding them, with a bowl of raita for dipping.

Each four-meatball serving (without dip): 237 calories; 20 grams protein; 3 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 16 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 75 mg. cholesterol; 257 mg. sodium.

ELOY MENDEZ'S ALBONDIGAS

Note: When we were putting together the "Mexico in L.A." issue, we suddenly started discovering great Mexican food all over the city. But this particular recipe came from a rather surprising place--one of the world's best California-Italian restaurants. Eloy Mendez works at Campanile, where he has become famous among the waiters and kitchen-workers for the albondigas that he occasionally cooks up for staff meals.

1 1/2 onions

4 cumin seeds

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

6 whole peppercorns, freshly ground

6 whole cloves, freshly ground

5 mint leaves, chopped

2 to 3 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped

2 pounds tomatillos

4 cups boiling water

5 cloves garlic

1/4 pound long green chiles, roasted and peeled

1 1/2 cups cilantro sprigs

Salt, pepper

1/4 cup oil

Chop 1 onion. Grind 2 cumin seeds to make about 1/8 teaspoon. Combine beef, pork, ground cumin, ground peppercorns and cloves, chopped onion and mint in bowl. Mix thoroughly with hands. Form into 1-inch meatballs, putting pieces of hard-cooked egg inside each meatball. Set aside.

Place tomatillos in boiling water with garlic, remaining 1/2 onion and 2 cumin seeds. Cook until tomatillos are tender. Place in blender with green chiles and 1 cup cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Puree mixture. Heat oil in 5-quart Dutch oven. Add pureed chile sauce and meatballs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer about 20 minutes. Stir in remaining cilantro. Makes 6 servings.

Note: If all-beef meatballs are desired use 2 pounds beef.

Each serving contains about: 530 calories; 384 mg sodium; 169 mg cholesterol; 39 grams fat; 14 grams carbohydrates; 32 grams protein; 1.33 grams fiber; 66% calories from fat.  

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