Elevate Standard Italian Meatballs With Sun-Dried Tomatoes

​​Sun-dried tomatoes are little packages of delight: Sweet and chewy morsels with a slight tang, they're a Mediterranean gift to cuisine. You might have seen them appear with roast chicken, puréed with herbs and olive oil to make a spread, baked into a focaccia, or as part of a pesto pasta. And while these are all wonderful applications, we've got one more: Try incorporating minced sun-dried tomatoes in your next batch of Italian meatballs. You'll wonder why you never did so before.

For starters, there won't be any kind of flavor conflict at all: Italians invented the stuff, salting summers' tomatoes and laying them out on their ceramic roof tiles to dry out, then storing them in jars filled with olive oil. Not only was this a wonderful method of preservation, but it also turned out to be a great way of concentrating the tomatoes' flavors. Mincing one and adding it to an Italian meatball mixture of ground beef and veal, onion, garlic, oregano, and Parmesan cheese feels like a long-overdue reunion. Beyond that, you could add sun-dried tomatoes to dishes such as Rustic Italian Wedding Soup, Swedish Meatballs, or an Italian Meatball Sandwich. It would definitely be a case of making a good thing better.

The hows and whys of sun-dried Italian meatballs

If you're going to add sun-dried tomatoes to an Italian meatball mixture, you must mince them first. One side effect of dehydration is chewiness (hello, beef jerky), and tomatoes are no exception. Since they're so highly flavorful, chopping up your sun-dried tomato will take nothing away from the meatballs besides chewy hunks of distraction. Moreover, the combination of steam and liquified animal fat produced by roasting the meatballs should allow the sun-dried mince to rehydrate and assume a more palatable texture.

What will sun-dried tomatoes add to the proceedings? A sweetness to accentuate what's already in the veal and onions, a tartness to extend and complement the accompanying marinara sauce, and an umami essence you won't quite be able to identify once it's incorporated into the savory whole. (Oh, by the way — if our description of the simplicity of sun-dried tomatoes gave you some big idea that you could make them at home, you totally can. All they really need is salt, heat, and time).