Martha Stewart's Secret Ingredient For Hearty Meatballs

A great meatball recipe is worth its weight in gold. After all, they're practically made for batch meal preparation, and taste even better when reheated; plus, they freeze with ease. So when home cooking maven Martha Stewart suggests adding mushrooms to meatballs to make them even better, we listen.

Stewart's take on the classic recipe includes a pound of finely chopped and sauteed cremini mushrooms. She blends the fungi with breadcrumbs, ground beef, onion, and seasonings to create a juicy weeknight treat. And, to ensure maximum browning, she completes the process by broiling the meatballs in the oven, rather than on the stove.

Though preparing the mushrooms adds another step to the recipe, the addition promises to bring lots of moisture, umami flavor, and pleasing texture that can stand up to the oven's blast of heat. Though the home entertaining expert pairs the plant with beef, we would guess the creminis would enhance turkey, chicken, and pork meatballs, too.

Adding mushrooms to the mix

This plant-based addition to meatballs is an exciting one because creminis add a savoriness and umami depth of flavor that further amplifies the delicious notes in browned ground beef. Since creminis are easy to grow year-round, shoppers can track them down at most grocery stores, regardless of the season. Best of all, they're incredibly forgiving and hard to overcook, which means they can stand up well to the multi-step process of making meatballs.

Using mushrooms also offers environmental benefits without asking cooks to give up beef. The idea of "blended burgers," which features a mix of mushrooms and beef, became popular more than a decade ago as a technique to reduce the environmental footprint of hamburgers by relying on less meat while not having to abandon it altogether. Since, compared to cows, mushrooms require far less water and land to produce, and they don't emit methane. The same benefits apply when it comes to blended meatballs.

The addition of fungi makes the comfort meal more nutritious, too. Mushrooms contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and electrolytes. They add texture and a great flavor all on their own, while helping to keep the meatball moist and tender — without being mushy.

More tips for extra tender, flavorful meatballs

In addition to harnessing plant power to make a juicy meatball a la Martha Stewart, we suggest following a few other steps to make the best version of the warming meal. To ensure the best possible texture, follow this important tip for the perfect meatballs: portion the raw mixture using an ice cream scooper to ensure consistency and even cooking. This eliminates over-handling, which can cause the meat to become rubbery.

Since the added mushrooms will require additional preparation time, you'll also have a few more minutes to work on your panade. That's a mixture of liquid and starch — typically milk and breadcrumbs — that locks in the meat and mushroom's moisture, giving meatballs their trademark tenderness. To encourage this culinary magic, allow the breadcrumbs and milk to soak for up to 30 minutes before mixing with your other ingredients.

Many home cooks struggle with the browning step of cooking meatballs but there's a solution for that too. Recipes often stipulate to sear them in batches, but there can be temptation to crowd the pan and hurry through this step. If this sounds familiar, consider using your oven. Broiling allows each sphere to develop a flavorful, crusty exterior, reduces the stovetop splatter, and prevents sogginess. Try taking advantage of your oven's secret feature for better broiling and leave the door open a crack to get the best results.