For chef Daniel Holzman, meatballs are so much more than a crown for a plate of spaghetti.
Holzman, the executive chef and co-owner of the famed Meatball Shop in New York City, took the bite-sized comfort food and reinvented it several times over with different meats and flavors to turn the meatball into the heart of the meal.
"Every single culture celebrates meatballs," he said. "Everyone has a meatball from their childhood, whether you're from southeast asia, northern Italy, Africa, you have meatballs in your culture and you have had meatballs in your past and that is exciting. You say meatballs and people smile."
After starting out working at the famous Le Bernadin restaurant under chef Eric Ripert, Holzman attended to the Culinary Institute of America and worked his way up to executive chef at high-end dining restaurants before opening The Meatball Shop.
"Meatball Shop was this perfect storm of ideas that collided," he said. "I felt like there was something rude about charging so much for food and there was really great food for a lot of money, but not a lot of great food at an affordable price. Meatballs are a naturally affordable food stuff. You can use the top quality ingredients because they are inherently inexpensive."
Holzman shared some of his favorite recipes for our "Nightline" Platelist series.
Spicy Pork Meatballs
Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch meatballs
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds pork shoulder, ground
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
4 jarred hot cherry peppers, minced
1/4 cup hot cherry pepper pickling liquid
4 slices fresh white bread, minced
3 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Drizzle the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
Combine the ground pork, salt, cherry peppers, pickling liquid, bread, and eggs in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 ½ inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.
Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.
Spicy Meat Sauce
Makes 8 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 pound ground pork, preferably shoulder
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Two 26-ounce boxes Pomi chopped tomatoes or two 28-ounce cans whole plum tomatoes, roughly chopped with their liquid.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, ground pork, red pepper flakes, and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the meat is thoroughly cooked and the onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir constantly until the sauce begins to boil. Continue cooking for 35 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so to prevent the sauce on the bottom of the pot from burning. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired.