Having a Ball

A no-fail guide to marvelous meatballs

"All I do is expound on how easy it is to make meatballs," says Daniel Holzman, executive chef of The Meatball Shop, which has three (soon to be four) locations in New York City. "They're so versatile. Every single culture celebrates them."

On Monday, Paley's Place chef Patrick McKee shared his superlative recipe for classic spaghetti and meatballs. But because Holzman's crew produces 6,000 meatballs daily, we asked for additional pointers:

Choose the Meat: Use Holzman's master ratio for a basic meatball: 2 pounds ground meat, ½ cup breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 eggs. "This'll make a well-seasoned meatball that will hold together," he says. Try ground lamb, beef, veal, chicken, turkey or pork. "Choose less-expensive cuts," advises Holzman. "Chicken thighs instead of breast, beef chuck instead of rib eye."

Season It: Cooked onion and garlic are fine additions, but Holzman ventures further afield. "We go kind of crazy," he admits. Try adding fresh herbs to your meatballs (oregano, basil, parsley and rosemary) or cheese (fresh ricotta, Pecorino Romano or Parmesan; or experiment with cubed mozzarella, grated cheddar or Gouda). Add some spice with red pepper flakes, a few spoonfuls of harissa or finely chopped pickled jalapeño chiles. And dried spices, like caraway or fennel seeds, ground cumin or coriander, even a pinch of cinnamon can be welcomed.

Cook the Balls: McKee browns his meatballs, then finishes cooking them in tomato sauce. Follow his lead, or try Holzman's approach, which is to roast them in the oven. He uses a lower temperature for chicken and turkey meatballs, but cranks the heat for beef, pork, lamb and veal balls.