As promised, more ways to use old bread.
This is one of the meals that I used to cook with my mom growing up. We ate a lot of hamburger. There was a rotation that included spaghetti with meat sauce, chili mac, taco's, sloppy joes, and hamburgers for normal weeknight dinners. Weekends might include pork chops or fried chicken, or occasionally steaks. Once in while a pot of stew, chili, or beans and ham hocks. Duck and other game birds were also eaten weekly through the fall and winter, and fresh fish when someone caught some trout or bass. There was always a vegetable to go with, and potatoes if not pasta. We ate very well, most everything from scratch, with a few helpers like a can of soup (but never ever Hamburger Helper!). From those days, I still have the habit of cooking dinner, at home, most nights. And once in a while, I still want one of those hamburger based dinners.
In the path to eating less CRAP, I have cut out most of the shortcuts, like cream of something soup. Generally, the cream, the something, maybe some onions and broth will pretty much replace any of these. But I have done things that do make life a bit easier, like baking the meatballs.
Before and after baking the meatballs
The bread is considered a "stretcher" to make the meat go further, but they are also key to getting the right texture. I use fresh bread to make this, but you can substitute about a 1/2 cup of dry breadcrumbs, plus an extra tablespoon of milk.
But the big change is making the mushroom sauce from scratch, not starting with a can of cream of mushroom soup. It is certainly more work, but not really hard. And so much better.
One last note.... If you make this with the full recipe, and plenty of noodles, it will feed 4. For just the 2 us, I just use half the meatballs (and freeze the other half). I generally make something green to go with (above with some roasted asparagus). I make a few less noodles, but all the gravy (I like it saucy). It feeds both of us and enough left for a lunch.
You can also freeze all the meatballs for a total do-ahead weeknight dinner.
Meatballs with Mushrooms
1 egg1 cup (about 1 slice) fresh bread crumbs or cubes
½ of a small onion, minced
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon Worcestershire or fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dry)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400F (convection if you have it). Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In medium sized bowl, lightly beat egg. Add the bread, onion, milk, and seasonings. Stir and let bread get mushy. Add beef and cheese, gently mix together (hands work best). Make golf ball sized meatballs and place on prepared sheet pan. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, turning balls after 10 minutes. They are done when brown and cooked through.
Once the meatballs are in the oven, you can start the mushroom gravy and pasta. Or, the meatballs can be done ahead and refrigerated or frozen.
NOTE: for just the two of us, I just use half the meatballs (and freeze the other half). I make the same amount of pasta and gravy.
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
½ of a small onion, diced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup flour
¼ cup white wine (optional)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
Salt, pepper to taste
Parsley or other herb for garnish
6 – 8 ounces egg noodles
Heat oil or butter in large skillet, add mushrooms and onions, add salt. Place pot of salted water on to boil for noodles. Sauté the mushrooms until they have released their moisture. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms, stir and cook until flour is absorbed. Add white wine, stir and let cook down, then add broth and stir well (if using cold meatballs, add now). Bring to a simmer. Cook the noodles. Let the gravy simmer until the noodles are almost done, then add milk and warm meatballs. When the noodles are done, drain and add to the meatballs and gravy. Stir to mix, then taste, add salt and pepper as needed. Sprinkle with herbs and serve.
Leftover meatballs, heated with a handful of kale and Bread Crumb Topping.