If you are a fan of OTT chili then these meatballs are definitely worth a look. Over the Top Smoked Meatballs pack delicious flavor in every bite. Leave the white shirts at home and bring your appetite. This one is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Over the Top as a Starting Point
A couple of years ago we started experimenting with over the top chili and discovered that smoking the meat on a cooking grid over the sauce really does help impart more of the smoke flavor into the meat of the chili. In the 2.5 years since that original post we have made chili almost exclusively using the “Over the Top” method. Naturally it wasn’t long before we started tooling around with other recipes to find another excellent fit.
Note: You will need a Cast Iron Dutch Oven for this. Check out our related article: Choose the Best Cast Iron Dutch Oven for Your Big Green Egg
Meatballs, and the smoking thereof, seem to be the perfect and obvious place to start. When we did OTT chili we referred to the “Giant Meatball” that we smoked over the remaining ingredients. Certainly it isn’t much of a leap to have a bunch of “bitesized meatballs” rolling with the same method.
This isn’t our first rodeo down the meatball path. A few years ago we prepared smoked venison meatballs which came out amazing well. Venison, being lean and gamey, would likely not be a fantastic choice for preparing “Over the Top”.
Dairy and Gluten Free Smoked Meatballs
We’ve made this recipe a few times for the family and due to some gluten and dairy intolerances in the house we’ve modified the recipe to exclude breads and cheeses. This recipe is originally adapted from https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/meatballs_with_ricotta_in_tomato_sauce/ which incorporates bread cubes and ricotta cheese. This is a great recipe that imparts a lot of delicious flavors into the meatballs and provides an excellent base. Although written for the stove you can certainly follow the ingredient list and prepare it “Over the Top”. Be sure to check out all of the delicious recipes over at Simply Recipes.
Over the Top Smoked Meatballs
- 16 ounces ground beef
- 16 ounces sweet Italian sausage
- 3 ounces prosciutto or pancetta minced
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 eggs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 2 onions chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 3 cans high quality tomatoes crushed or pureed
Prepare the grill
- Configure your kamado grill for indirect cooking and bring it up to 325 degrees dome temp. In addition be sure to have your dutch oven and cooking grid in the grill set up for an over the top cook to ensure everything is warmed up and ready to go when the meatballs are ready.
- When adding the lump charcoal to the grill add a couple of chunks of hickory for additional smoking flavor. Note: Just a couple of chunks is all that is needed to bring a smokey profile to the meatballs. More than a couple of chunks will result in an overpowering smoke flavor that detracts from rest of the flavors in the meatballs.
Prepare the meatballs
- In a large bowl add the ground beef, sweet Italian sausage, prosciutto/pancetta, parsley, oregano, fennel, red pepper flakes and salt.
- Hand mix the ingredients until everything is evenly distributed being careful not to over work the mixture.
- In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Pour the eggs into the meat mixture and incorporate with your hands being careful, once again, not to overwork the mixture.
Fine tune the mix and hand roll the meatballs
- At this point you can move the meat mixture to the refrigerator while fine tuning the flavor. To fine tune the flavor to your liking heat small portions in a small stovetop skillet to test. Always ensure that meat is cooked through when testing. Additional herbs, spices, salt and pepper can be added to taste.
- Once the mixture is to your liking hand roll out the meatballs using about 3 tablespoons of mixture for each meatball. This should yield approximately 24 meatballs
To the grill
- Once the grill is up to temperature remove the cooking grid and carefully set aside (remember it is hot).
- Add the olive oil and chopped onions to the dutch oven and allow to sweat 5-7 minutes.
- Add the garlic to the onions and cook for an additional minute until the garlic becomes aromatic.
- Add the cans of tomato sauce to the onions and garlic and mix to incorporate.
- Replace the grid over the dutch oven ensuring the grid doesn't impede the grill's ability to close.
- Place the meatballs on the grid in a strategic fashion ensuring that the meatballs are placed over the tomato sauce and are not touching each other. This will allow airflow and smoke around the meatballs and ensure even cooking time and smoke incorporation.
- close the lid and allow the meatballs to smoke until they have reached an internal temperature of ~150-155 degrees.
- Once the meatballs have reached the appropriate internal temperature remove them from the cooking grid and add them to the sauce in the dutch oven.
- With a wooden spoon mix the sauce and meatballs until thoroughly incorporated.
- Close the lid and allow the meatballs to continue to simmer for an additional hour. This is when the sauce really takes on a delicious flavor from the now smoke infused meatballs.
- Remove meatballs and sauce from dutch oven and serve hot.
- The meatballs are delicious on their own or can be enjoyed over pasta or in a meatball sandwich.