Patagonian albondigas, kufte rize from Armenia and the Belgium-born ballekes – these exotic-sounding dishes are all the humble meatball, jazzed up with different ingredients but retaining their signature shape.
The meatball ingredient and flavour medleys are almost endless, despite the fact they're all based on the same stuff – minced meat. Basically any meat, in fact. Places like The Bowler Meatballs serve up everything from chickpea balls to pork, beef and chorizo. However, if you're loyal to the traditional Italian meatball, you can go to town at ASK Italian or get your meatballs packed into a burger at Italian Grill. We promise the balls of your dreams are out there.
A dish of simple genius
Rolled into a small bundle of fun, the meatball formula is simple – it's a base of finely chopped onion, butter, egg and breadcrumbs, mixed with ground meat. This combination makes sure that they keep their famous shape and soak up whatever flavour you finally settled on.
There's a reason the Italian style meatball dish is a firm favourite across the globe. We think it's down to the rich tomato sauce base that subtly soaks into tender meatballs. But this is far from the only way to enjoy this classic dish.
Our love of meatballs goes way back. It's even possible to trace it to China in 200 BC. That's a lot of meatballs over the centuries. There are also mentions of our beloved meatball in ancient Arabic cookbooks – these lamb-based bundles were usually served in balls the size of oranges, and glazed with egg yolks and saffron for a particularly decadent finish.
Wherever they originally came from, they caught on everywhere. In Albania, they rustled up qofte te ferguara – fried meatballs made with feta cheese for a zingy, rich taste. In Bosnia, you'll find cufte, made with ground beef and served up with a hearty portion of creamy mash that'll satisfy the hungriest diner. And in America, meatballs pay homage to Italian cuisine – coming piled high on spaghetti, or adorning pizzas.
The worldwide love of meatballs has not let up. The Bowler serve up their meatballs by the box – including their vegetarian, gluten-free invention. The Balafel is made from chickpeas, spinach and ricotta, soaked in a tomato sauce, mint yoghurt, pickles and parsley. It's served with steamed wild rice, homemade slaw and crispy shallots for a creative take on this age-old favourite.
ASK Italian's meatballs work great as a starter or side, providing some light bites. They fry their beef and chilli meatballs in a crispy coat of breadcrumbs, served with a sweet tomato and basil dip.
And at Dundee's Italian Grill, you'll find your meatballs served up as a starter, with parmesan and rosemary breadsticks. If you're feeling a little more adventurous, you can also find meatballs on the grill. That's right – the guys here pack red pepper pesto, baby lettuce and a tender meatball burger into a floury ciabatta, with chunky hand-cut chips on the side.
For a meaty mouthful bursting with flavour, order in some meatballs from Deliveroo.