The Underrated Herbs Begging For A Spot In Your Meatball Mix

Spaghetti and meatballs, that popular dinnertime staple, has been gracing our tables for as long as we can remember. In fact, many of us forget (or may never have known) that there's a lot more to meatballs than the Italian-American version. Yes, these juicy little seasoned balls of meaty goodness are more than just a tired companion for spaghetti. They're suitable as an entree or appetizer, in sandwiches or soups, and the versatility, affordability, and overall simplicity make meatballs hard to beat. But to really make them sing, you should skip the tired old dried herbs and opt instead for a handful of those underrated, but vastly superior, fresh varieties begging to liven up your dinner table. 

Fresh herbs will not only pump up your Italian-American meatballs, but they'll also allow you to expand your meatball repertoire to the world of meatballs available across the globe. Whether it's Greek keftedes, Mexican albondigas, Morrocan Kefta Mkaouara, Swedish Köttbullar, or the cocktail meatballs slathered in grape jelly and barbecue sauce served up in a crockpot at your Aunt Peg's in Baltimore, the truth is, with the right fresh herbs in hand, the world is your meatball.

Herbaceous flavor-changers to enhance your meatballs

When it comes to meatballs, fresh herbs bring plenty of vibrant flavors, lightening up even the heaviest of meats, balancing fat, and adding an extra zippy brightness. Try a fresh chiffonade of oregano instead of dried in your favorite marinara-drenched balls, or a pesto meatball made with sweet basil, garlic, and olive oil for a fresh basil-forward mix-in. Switch things up with basil's spicier, purple-flowered-anise-scented cousin, stirring in Thai basil, ginger, garlic, and shallots to ground chicken or pork and topping with sweet chili sauce for a meatball even Aunt Peg will enjoy. Is summer's heat calling? Explore Greek meatballs made with ground beef or lamb, fresh mint, and oregano — topped with a cool dollop of homemade tzatziki (fresh dill anyone?), and a refreshing watermelon salad for an unbelievable summer meal.

Looking to warm your belly? Chopped sage, breadcrumbs, onions, and ground turkey make a cozy homage to Thanksgiving that nestles well in buttery mashed potatoes smothered in turkey gravy. Or put Ikea to shame, serving Swedish meatballs made with fresh tarragon, draped in tangy gravy, and served with lingonberry jam. Like spice? Take a trip to North Africa for Moroccan meatballs with fresh cilantro, cumin, and Aleppo pepper, or whip up some zesty albondigas de cilantro.

Whatever you choose, let the fresh voices of these underrated herb incarnations whisper their traditions to you, transforming your meatballs from boring school lunchroom fodder to iconic culinary heights.