Grilled Mediterranean Meatballs

Grilled Meatballs 1Just let me put it out there…I LOVE meatballs! I’m not a huge carnivore, but I will eat a good meatball any day of the week. Meatballs are so versatile and I love that all of the hard work can be done ahead of time.  These meatballs have a wonderful Greek flavor profile. Lots of fresh oregano, dill, parsley, and a little mint give them amazing flavor. They are tender and juicy thanks to some plain Greek yogurt and feta cheese. There is a lot of love that goes into these, and it shows through in every bite!

I know we have entered fall and grilling season is behind us, but I lagged just a teeny bit on finishing this post so you are getting it now. Here in southern California, you would NEVER know that summer is behind us. One might think that we are in the DOG DAYS of summer here. Every time I check the forecast, it’s 80’s (and some 90’s) as far as the eye can see. So there is a good chance that plenty of you out there are still in grill mode. If not, be sure and pin this recipe to your “Summer Grilling” board on Pinterest!

Raw meatballsI make these ahead of time and put them on a cookie sheet lined with foil and cover them in plastic wrap so that I can keep them in the fridge until dinner. My husband has mastered the art of grilling these to perfection, which is great because all I have to do is drink wine while he cooks them. I served these babies with with some home made tzatziki (I use Ina Garten’s Tzatziki Recipe…It’s my fave!), my Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad, some toasted pita bread, and my Mediterranean salsa! I will post the salsa recipe soon!! If you are melting in this heatwave like we are, this dinner won’t have you sweating in the kitchen.

Meatball dinnerThere are tons of fresh herbs in these, so use your food processor to make quick work of all of the chopping. You will also need it for the pine nuts. Yes, pine nuts! You will grind them up in the food processor so that you have a sort of pine nut paste that adds even more yumminess to the meatballs. I suppose you could leave them out if you are opposed to pine nuts, but I can’t guarantee that they will taste as fabulous. The blend of beef, pork, and veal (aka: The Holy Meat Trilogy) is also key in these. I also think buying organic, grass fed beef and good quality ground pork (whenever possible) makes a big difference.

Meatball dinner 2Don’t skip the tzatziki! Buy it already made if you must (Trader Joe’s is pretty good), but don’t skip it – it is so good on the meatballs. It’s their perfect sauce! The Mediterranean salsa I made was really good on the meatballs as well. That recipe is on its way! This recipe feeds a crowd. I had enough for 8 servings with a few left over. The leftovers made the most amazing little sliders!

meatball sliderI cut the left-over meatballs in half and heated them up in a pan. I put them on a toasted dinner roll with tzatziki and some of my Mediterranean salsa and they were SO delicious! My kids went nuts for them! I think these would be perfect game day fare. No need to wait for left-overs…just make your meatballs slightly smaller and give them a little “smash” before grilling. These sliders would be great to serve up to all of your hungry football watchers!

Grilled Mediterranean Meatballs

For a printable version of this recipe, click here

Serves 8 – 10 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped small
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves (small handfull)
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh oregano leaves (no stems) OR 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh dill  (remove thick stems) OR 1 tablespoon of dried dill
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 pound veal
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs (I use panko)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a medium pan, saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and tender. Set aside to cool to room temp.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a whisk. Add the greek yogurt, salt & pepper, and whisk them all together until smooth.
  3. Add the pine nuts to the bowl of a food processor with a chopping blade (I use my small one, but any size will work).  Pulse until they form a thick, course paste (don’t over process them…you don’t want them as smooth as peanut butter). Using a rubber spatula, scrape all of the ground pine nuts from the bowl of the food processor into the mixing bowl with the eggs and yogurt.
  4. Add all of your herbs to the food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add all of the herbs to the mixing bowl.
  5. Add the beef, veal and pork to the mixing bowl along with the bread crumbs, cooled onion and garlic, feta, and parmesan cheese. Break up any large chunks of feta with your fingers.
  6. Time to mix! I like to use my hands for this and I wear these disposable gloves. They are perfect for this! You want to gently combine all of the ingredients and incorporate the 3 meats together without over mixing. Your hands really are the best way to get this done. Keep the gloves on after mixing…you can use them when you form the meatballs!
  7. Once everything is thoroughly combined, form into large meatballs (somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball). Keep the meatballs on a cookie sheet or a baking dish in the fridge until you are ready to grill.
  8. Before grilling, drizzle some olive oil over the meatballs and use your hands to make sure they are coated with the oil.
  9. We cook these on a gas grill. Preheat the grill on high and prep your grill by cleaning your grates well and then rubbing them with a  paper towel coated in oil. Put the meatballs over direct heat to sear on all sides –  DON’T turn your meatballs until they pull away from the grill easily. Once they have a nice crust on all sides, turn the grill down to medium heat and move the meatballs off the direct heat to finish cooking. The goal here is to get that crust on the outside to “seal” the meatball and keep it moist on the inside. You want to cook them all the way through, but not let them get too charred. Depending on your grill this can take anywhere from 20 – 30 min. If you have a thermometer, the proper internal temp is 160 degrees.

Grilling Note: If you are a grilling novice (like me) and you are worried about cooking these directly on the grill, you can use a grill pan like the one below to insure they don’t stick to your grate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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