The New York City Wine and Food Festival hosts a ton of interesting food events each year, and one of the more popular events is Meatball Madness. At this event, top chefs compete to win the award for the best meatball. With judges like Giada De Laurentiis, Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burrell, and Geoffrey Zakarian, winning is no easy feat.
We walked around and chatted with a number of different NYC chefs who all shared their meatball tips and tricks with us. In the end, it came down to two classic meatball tips that every home cook should follow:
Don't over work the meatball! Our chefs told us that the biggest mistake a home cook can make is packing the meatball too tight in your hands, almost like a snowball. Rather, you want to hold and shape it with very soft, loose hands.
Be hands on! Don't be afraid to mix your ingredients into the ground meat with your hands. It is the best way to make sure everything is evenly distributed.
The winner was chef Gabe Thompson who was there on behalf of his newest restaurant, L'Apicio. He won with a meatball with Amatriciana sauce. He says that the keys to a great meatball are to not overwork them, and to use a good spice mix.
Chef Gabe Thompson's Award-Winning Meatballs
By Chef Gabe Thompson of L'Apicio
1 cup cumin seed
1 cup coriander seed
1 cup fennel seed
.5 cup chili flakes
2 cups smoked paprika
In a dry pan toast cumin, coriander and fennel seeds over high heat. As they start to get nice and aromatic toss in chili flakes and continue to toast for about 45 seconds to a minute. Finely grind ingredients. Mix ground spices with the smoked paprika. Store in a dry airtight container.
For the Meatballs
6 lbs ground pork
3 cups toasted breadcrumbs
1 cup chopped parsley
4 cups ground pecorino
¾ cups salt
2 ¾ cups caramelized onions
1 ¼ cups spice mix*
Thoroughly mix all ingredients with the ground pork. Portion out and roll into balls. Depending on your preference you can fry or bake the meatballs.