5 local restaurants switch up the meatball

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 1/13/16

The meatball is a classic staple: stacked on top of a helping of pasta and smothered in tomato sauce, no one can say no to the familiar comfort dish on a cold evening.

However, the basics of the meatball also grant the opportunity to switch up time-tried recipes and create something entirely new. And that’s exactly what these five Central Jersey restaurants have done.

Check out our roundup below to find out where you can get a meatball that isn’t exactly a part of your grandmother’s Sunday dinner.

'Stuffed peppers' are a seasonal dish served at Nunzio's Kitchen. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Nunzio's Kitchen)

‘Stuffed peppers’ are a seasonal dish served at Nunzio’s Kitchen. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Nunzio’s Kitchen)

‘Stuffed peppers’ from Nunzio’s Kitchen at 521 Raritan St., Sayreville

The dish: Made from owners Michael and Marco Colandrea’s mother’s 35-year-old meatball recipe, these handmade, organic pork and beef meatballs are stuffed inside locally grown peppers raw and then cooked for three to four hours, creating a unique sauce and flavor blended with the sweetness of the pepper.

What customers have to say: Since it’s a special that’s only served when high-quality, local peppers are available, usually in the spring and summer, “Our customers get really upset when we discontinue the dish, and I feel their pain because it’s my favorite, too,” said Marco Colandrea. “People are always asking about it.”

The cost: $18 for two large, stuffed peppers served with pasta, salad and bread.

Contact: Call 732-727-1060 or visit nunzioskitchen.com

Mamas Neapolitan-style meatballs from Luca's Ristorante are homemade in-house-made meatballs made from short rib chuck and ground beef, pine nuts and golden raisins in organic tomato sauce and topped with provolone cheese. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Luca's Ristorante)

Mamas Neapolitan-style meatballs from Luca’s Ristorante are homemade in-house-made meatballs made from short rib chuck and ground beef, pine nuts and golden raisins in organic tomato sauce and topped with provolone cheese. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Luca’s Ristorante)

Mama’s Neapolitan-style meatballs from Luca’s Ristorante at 2019 Rt. 27, Somerset

The meatball: These homemade in-house meatballs are made from short rib chuck and ground beef, mixed in with pine nuts and golden raisins and paired with organic tomato sauce, topped with melted provolone cheese.

What customers have to say: “People really love the uniqueness of the mixed-in pine nuts and golden raisins,” said Andrea Di Meglio, chef and owner of Luca’s Ristorante.

The cost: $15 for three meatballs

Contact: Call 732-297-7676 or visit lucasristorante.com

Meatballs at Nunzio's Kitchen are used in a variety of dishes, including this meatball sub. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Nunzio's Kitchen)

Meatballs at Nunzio’s Kitchen are used in a variety of dishes, including this meatball sub. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Nunzio’s Kitchen)

Meatball sundae from Alfonso’s at 99-101 W Main St., Somerville

The dish: Served in a sundae cup, the appetizer features Mama Yolanda’s famous meatball layered with ricotta cheese and homemade tomato sauce topped with fresh-grated Parmesan cheese and parsley.

What customers have to say: “Many of our customers like that it’s something a little different,” said Brianna Camacho, hostess. “Plus, even though it’s just one meatball, it fills them up.”

The cost: $6.95 for one meatball

Contact: Call 908-526-0616 or visit alfonsostrattoria.com

Osteria Procaccini's meatballs are made from grassfed veal, beef and pork. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Osteria Procaccini)

Osteria Procaccini’s meatballs are made from grassfed veal, beef and pork. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Osteria Procaccini)

Meatball margherita pizza from Osteria Procaccini at 4428 Rt. 27, Kingston

The pizza: The thin-crust pie has fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil and is topped with grassfed veal, beef and pork meatballs.

What customers have to say: “The first thing they want to know is if they can have the recipe,” said Stephanie Castro, manager. “Our customers love these meatballs.”

The cost: $14

Contact: Call 609-688-0007 or visit osteriaprocaccini.com

Ristorante Venezia serves veal meatballs. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Ristorante Venezia)

Ristorante Venezia serves veal meatballs. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Ristorante Venezia)

Veal meatballs from Ristorante Venezia at 112 Main St, Woodbridge

The meatballs: The three veal meatballs are served with marinara sauce over rigatoni.

What customers have to say: “People are crazy about these meatballs,” said Remi Gjekaj, owner.

The cost: $19.95 for an entree

Contact: Call 732-855-8995 or visit ristorantevenezia.com

If you’re looking to stay in for that meatball comfort meal, then check out Joanie Singer of Matawan’s Singer’s Surprise Meatballs recipe here:

Joanie Singer of Matawan has created her own "Singer's Surprise Meatballs." (Photo: ~Courtesy of Joanie Singer)

Joanie Singer of Matawan has created her own “Singer’s Surprise Meatballs.” (Photo: ~Courtesy of Joanie Singer)

Instructions

  1. Heat sauce on low flame
  2. Take half the meat for meatball, add chunk of cheese in the middle and add other half of meat and roll together into meatball and add into sauce
  3. If chopped meat is too loose, add in some breadcrumbs
  4. Continue into all meat and cheese is in the sauce
  5. Cover loosely and cook for one to one and a half hours on a low flame
  6. Cut open meatballs and surprise!

Or see Martorano’s Meatballs taken from “It Ain’t Sauce it’s Gravy: Macaroni, Homestyle Cheesesteaks, The Best Meatballs in the World,” courtesy of reader Kevin B. Keane.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 pound of stale hoagie rolls
  • 1/2 pound of ground beef
  • 1/2 pound of ground veal
  • 1/2 pound of ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 cups vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Finely chop the parsley, allowing it to dry for 30 minutes in the open air, and set aside.
  2. Slice your bread into 1/2-inch pieces, add water, and mash with your hands until it’s smooth and the water is incorporated, 6 or 7 minutes. The bread should have a firm but doughy texture.
  3. Add your beef, veal, Pork, salt, pepper and granulated garlic to the bread; knead well until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  4. Add the egg, the parmigiano peggiano and parsley, kneading again until all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Finally, add your bread crumbs and knead well again. Resist the temptation just to throw all the ingredients into a bowl and mix at the same time: the order of this procedure in this recipe is very important to the final product.
  6. Divide and weigh the mixture into balls of 5 1/2 ounces, then roll them, using a circular motion between both hands, until your meatballs are round and firm. You will get roughly eighteen meatballs.
  7. In a 14-inch frying pan, heat the vegetable oil to 325 degrees F.(Use a Candy thermometer to gauge the correct temperature.) Once the oil is hot, gently place the meatballs in the oil and cook in batches. The oil should have a slow bubble to it.
  8. When the meatballs are light brown in color, flip them over with a pair of tongs, and cook until brown on the other side. The internal temperature should be 150 degrees F.
  9. You can eat the meatballs like this, or add them to the Sunday pork gravy and let them simmer for 30 minutes before serving.

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