The best meatball recipes, whatever your meatball mood

Banh mi with pork meatballs (or xiu mai) from Richmond's Nhu Lan bakery.
Banh mi with pork meatballs (or xiu mai) from Richmond's Nhu Lan bakery. Photo: Pam Morris

What meatball mood are you in today? 

Snack attack

Think meatball and your protein-starved brain may begin conjuring images of bowls heaped with pasta and cheese but there are plenty of equally satisfying ways to utilise juicy, flavoursome meatballs - surely one of the best ways to cap off a meal.

Vietnam

Banh mi is always a good bet for busting hunger on a budget. The meatball (or xiu mai) banh mi is popular in southern Vietnam. In Australia, owners of Vietnamese bakeries who hail from Ho Chi Minh city or Can Tho province might offer xiu mai in their baguettes but those who grew up on Hanoi's cuisine would not.

For a great example of xiu mai, head to Melbourne's Vietnamese heart - Richmond's Victoria Street - where the Nhu Lan bakery staff stuff their baguettes with the usual fillers such as chicken liver pate, pickled radish and carrot, fresh cucumber, coriander, fried onion and chilli but swap processed meat for juicy, pork meatballs cooked in a rich tomato sauce - all for $5.

The secret to getting xiu mai just right at home, according to Nhu Lan's Khanh Ziccardi, is to steam them. For ingredients and tips on making your own version see the photo gallery, above.

Cr: William Meppem GW food - Nov 21. Neil Perry's pork and lemon meatball skewers. GW151121

Neil Perry's pork and lemon meatball skewers. Photo: William Meppem.


Barbecue

Don't want to mess around with prep ahead of your meatball fill? Fire up the grill.

Neil Perry's pork and lemon meatball skewers.

Simple kid-friendly beef meatballs on the grill

Antipodean meatball: The term 'rissole' originated in France, but Australia and New Zealand have claimed these meaty nuggets . Try Adam Liaw's version of a mid-week winner.

Pack a punch with a meatball sanga.

Pack a punch with a meatball sanga. Photo: Marina Oliphant


In a sandwich

Take your next sandwich up a notch with Jill Dupleix meatball sandwich with beetroot and hummus or try Scandi-style meatballs (below) on rye.

Jill's Greek meatballs with tomato sauce can also be used to stuff a sandwich.

In a kebab

For a street food version of the meatball sandwich try chef Shane Delia's beef kofta kebabs


Mid-week dinner

Of course Italians are well-versed on meatball magic given their compatibility with pasta. No, wait! Actually it was the Americans who paired meatballs and pasta for the saucy bowl of deliciousness we now know as 'spaghetti and meatballs'. The Italian version, polpette, are more delicate and are not necessarily paired with pasta (find some polpette recipes in our family feasting meatball selection).

Jill Dupelix's healthy tuna meatballs with penne.

Jill Dupleix healthy tuna meatballs with penne. Photo: Marina Oliphant


Spaghetti and meatballs

Roll out the red and white-checked tablecloth and give those dusty green wine bottles a spit 'n' polish for a hearty, candle-lit mid-week dinner.

Pork: Steve Manfredi's spin on American-style meatballs

Beef: The Strodes' basic spaghetti and meatballs

Tuna: Quick, healthy and kid-friendly penne

Chicken: Dan Lepard's chicken and sourdough meatballs 

In lasagne: Adam Liaw's meatball lasagne

Adam Liaw's Swedish meatballs.

Adam Liaw's Swedish meatballs. Photo: William Meppem

Scandinavian meatballs

Also in contention for most marvellous meatballs are the Scandinavian countries. The Danes have their pork frikadeller, served up for dinner with potatoes and cabbage or cold on a rye open sandwich. In Sweden 'kottbullar' might also contain beef. 

Try Adam Liaw's kottbullar with pressed cucumber and mash or this spin on Swedish meatballs.

Add an egg to these Euro-inspired meatball dishes

For this eggy Maltese dish you could cheat and use sausages, or make your own pork meatballs.

Use chorizo and pork sausages in this spicy bowl of comfort from Jill Dupleix.

Fish kofta with salad and tarator sauce.

Fish kofta with salad and tarator sauce. Photo: William Meppem

Kofta

While pork is a popular foundation for meatballs it's a no-no in many cultures. Kofta, usually made from lamb or fish, pop up in recipes across the Middle East, the Mediterranean and from as far south as India and Bangladesh.  

Lamb kofta curry

Lamb kofta with baba ganoush and olives

Lamb kofta with muhummara

Fish koftas in tomato curry sauce

Fish kofta with salad and tarator sauce


Asian mid-week mains with meatballs

If you're in the mood for something a little lighter and fresher midweek, Asian cuisines often add meatballs to soups. Good Food guru, Jill Dupleix, took inspiration from Thailand for this recipe. This noodle soup with pork meatballs from the Dainty Sichuan team is a little spicier.

Adam Liaw looked to the Japanese tradition of teriyaki for these chicken and tofu meatballs.

But if you're a fan of a warming curry you'll love this Indian meatball curry with peas.


Special-occasion feast

Sure meatballs are comfort-food extraordinaire, but that doesn't mean they can't get a little bit fancy, when occasion calls.

China
Adam Liaw turned a fairly humble dish of pork meatballs hailing from Shanghai into one course of a Chinese New Year banquet. "My favourite thing about Chinese New Year is how ordinary foods are magically turned into lucky charms ... Even chucking a meatball onto your plate can be considered auspicious." Here is Liaw's fancy version of lion's head meatballs. You'll find the rest of his banquet here.

Veal and pork polpette with savoy cabbage and Taleggio

Veal and pork polpette with savoy cabbage and Taleggio Photo: Bonnie Savage

Italy
Fancy-up spaghetti and meatballs with 'polpette' in this Karen Martini dish. Polpette don't have to be accompanied by pasta, so here are some alternatives for your next dinner party.

Roast chicken polpette with taleggio and truffled pecorino

Polpette and mozzarella ficelle

Chicken polpette with spinach and feta yoghurt