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We continue to give thanks to generous readers who are sharing family favorites. The color commentary accompanying the recipes you’ve sent is just as delicious as the dishes!

Best of all, some suggestions can not only be made ahead, but can be served forth at parties, potlucks or even the main event.

Our friend Jill recently shared not only the recipe, but some tastes of the amazing, addictive ham balls that are core to celebrating in her family. Yep, they require a bit of “hands on,” but what better way to get the party rollin’? Many hands make many meatballs, pronto!

Better yet, once made, “they are amazing as they age as well -- they soak up all the syrupy goodness and just get better and better.”

Jill shared the basic recipe, but notes it can be easily doubled or sextupled. “To give you an idea of scale, my mother would use 12 pounds of meat for 26 people. It was a glorious enterprise that often required calling in the cavalry for help.”

These meatball memories reminded us of the Meatball Shop’s veggie version that we need to get back into our holiday rotation. Topped with pesto or your favorite red sauce, these babies are a staff favorite at the NYC restaurant and for kids, “a great and tasty way to sneak in more veggies.”

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Merry meatballs, y’all!

Ham Balls


1 pound ground ham

1½ pounds ground lean pork

¾ cups fresh bread crumbs

½ cup saltine crackers in crumbs

½ cup chopped onion

2 eggs

¾ cup milk

dash of pepper


Combine the above and form into medium-sized balls. Place in a 9-by-13-inch pan so they are touching. They will shrink as they cook.



1½ cup brown sugar

½ cup vinegar (I'd say white vinegar)

1 teaspoon dry mustard

½ cup water


Combine and heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour over ham balls. Bake in a slow oven (300 F) for two hours. Turn balls over after one hour. Decrease oven temperature if ham balls seem too dry.

The Meatball Shop’s Veggie Balls

2 cups lentils

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons tomato paste

8 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

3 large eggs

½ cup grated rennet-free Parmesan cheese

½ cup bread crumbs

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup finely chopped walnuts

Combine lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to boil over high. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

Add ¼ cup olive oil to a large frying pan and saute onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.

Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, add lentils to vegetable mixture.

Add eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts to cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

Roll the mixture into golf ball-size (about 1½ inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing ¼ inch of space between the balls and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.

Roast for 30 minutes, or until balls are firm and cooked through. Allow balls to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving. Makes about 2 dozen 1½-inch veggie balls.


Lynne Ireland lives to eat and welcomes comments and questions from others who do (or don’t). Contact her at


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