So You Want to Cook Some of Chef Mario’s Meatballs?
Every chef has a go-to recipe. It’s that one dish that they can make with their eyes closed, in any kitchen, and deliver a fantastic meal every single time. Chefs that become restaurateurs typically find a way to highlight this A+ meal or even focus their entire concept and menu in the service of that meal. Catering by Mario’s has such an item, and for Chef Mario, it’s his homemade meatballs. Mario’s meatballs have delighted friends, family, and clients over the years. Still, as with most chefs, he kept the recipe a closely guarded secret, saved for drive-by celebrations throughout Philadelphia. Until now.
On the latest episode of “Cooking with Mario,” Chef Mario highlights his “Mario’s Meatballs.” In the opening minute, Chef Mario concedes that it took living during a pandemic for him to reveal his meatball recipe. He discusses the ingredients that he uses for the meatballs, binds everything together, and a secret ingredient or two that genuinely makes Mario’s Meatballs stand out from the crowd. You can see why South Jersey corporate clients come to Mario for catering services all year round!
What Sets Chef Mario’s Apart
Chef Mario gives viewers detailed instructions on creating his signature meatballs but does allow viewers to mix it up based on personal preference. While some of the ingredients may change, like opting for purely beef meatballs instead of beef, pork, and veal mixture, the magic comes in the seasonings and cooking method. Oven roasting the meatballs allows the meat to cook all the way through and develop a beautiful and even coating on the outside to give the meatballs the texture they need to stand out.
Wait, You’re Adding Cheese?!
The key to the best meatballs comes down to texture. You want your meatballs to have that nice, fluffy, melty texture when you bite into them. Depending on the meat mix you decide to use, it can come out having more of a hamburger texture than meatball and takes away from the experience. One way Chef Mario counters that is through the addition of ricotta cheese into the mix.
After adding the ricotta to the mix, the classic Italian meatball’s smooth, fluffy texture is preserved. You want to make sure that you don’t overwork your meat and ricotta mixture because that is another factor that leads to inconsistent textures.
The Key To Perfectly Uniform Meatballs Every Time
Have you tried forming a perfectly round meatball by hand, but every time you try, they’re either not all the same size, or you get too much of the meat on your fingers instead of the perfectly round meatball? The two-step process that Chef Mario uses to get that perfectly round meatball every time includes a handy 2 oz measuring scoop and a bowl of water.
The measuring scoop will give you that perfect 2 oz sized meatball every time, but after you trim some of the excess meat off the top of the scoop, you won’t maintain that round shape, and you’ll still have to roll them. By dipping your hands in water before you start, the meat won’t adhere to your hands as much, and you’ll get more meat in each meatball after you roll into perfect balls.
Oven Roasted vs. Pan Fried
The way you cook the meatballs will affect the final product’s overall look and texture, but there isn’t a right or wrong answer to which method is best. You can pan-fry the meatballs in a little olive oil over medium heat until it’s cooked to your liking. Chef Mario chose to cook them in the oven first for 15-30 minutes at 350-375 degrees and then finish them off in the sauce. Either method you choose, the result will be that spongier internal texture that sets classic Italian meatballs apart from the imitators.
“Cooking with Mario” gives our friends and followers the chance to bring their family’s classic Italian cooking to the dinner table. Chef Mario provides the culinary inspiration and offers viewers the tools needed to cook the meals that built Catering by Mario’s, home to Philadelphia’s finest wedding caterers and Philly’s best corporate catering services. Chef Mario wants to keep the familial traditions that go hand in hand with home cooking alive, and sharing his closely guarded meatball recipe shows how serious he takes that calling.