SMOKED ITALIAN MEAT BALLS
***seasoning is for 4.5 lbs 85/15 ground chuck***
3 Tbls ground onion
3 Tbls ground red bell pepper
1.5 Tbls ground green bell pepper
2 Tbls ground sweet basil
2 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp ground thyme
1 Tbls ground garlic
1.5 Tbls ground black peppercorn
1.5 tsp iodized table salt
1 package saltine crackers, crumbed in food processor
Mix all ingredients with meat by hand in a large non-reactive bowl. I prefer to use powder-free latex gloves with this much human meat contact.
Form into 1-1/2" - 2" tightly packed balls and smoke @ 225* for 2.5-3.0 hours or just until they reach a very firm texture when squeezed with a tong. They should have formed small puddles of red meat juices on top before this point, indicating the centers are heating through. Don't over-do the squeeze test...you don't want to loose those precious juices.
***for above meat balls***
3 - 14.5oz cans peeled tomatoes
2 - 8oz cans tomato sauce
1 Tbls sweet basil leaves
3 - 6.5oz cans button mushrooms, pieces and stems, drained
2 tsp oregano
2 Tbls minced dried garlic
2 tsp ground black peppercorn
4 Tbls dried red bell pepper, approx 3/8" dice
2 Tbls dried green bell pepper, approx 3/8" dice
1/2 cup dried chopped onion
***note: no added salt in the sauce due to using canned base ingredients,
and 1 medium fresh onion and a med/lg whole head of minced garlic may be
substituted for the dried by sauteing in 2 Tbls olive oil until
translucent, then adding all other ingredients to simmer***
Combine all ingredients and simmer in large covered stock pot for at least
2 hours while gently stirring occasionally.
Mash tomatoes down a bit to partially break them up, then add smoked meat
balls while hot from the smoker and continue to simmer covered for 60-90
minutes, stirring occasionally. This is the melding stage where some of
the smoked flavors of the meat will blend into the sauce while the sauce reduces slightly.
Serve over spaghetti pasta topped with grated parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese.
Spices are measured-up and ready to grind:
Ground, tumble blended and ready to mix with ground beef:
Crumbing the saltines...my wife's 450 watt 12-cup rig:
That took about 15 seconds...a very small amount for this large processor:
Meat mix is ready:
Off to to the smoker:
Time to get the sauce started...all dry ingredients in a 8-qt non-stick stock pot:
And with the wet/canned, all mixed up and slowly heating through:
Meat balls are smoked and time for a final inspection before dropping into the pot. I took one a cut it open just to see moisture content and how my smoke came through...nice...of course, that sliced meat ball never saw the sauce pot...yummy!!!:
Hmm, it's got a bit of smoke ring going on here:
3 meatballs and sauce over pasta, topped with freshly grated mozzarella:
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