Despite the fact that they are most readily associated with Italian cuisine, what Americans call the "meatball" is actually a distinctly American dish, though it was in fact largely popularized by Italian immigrants.

The original Italian "meatball" was actually something called a "polpette." Polpettes were not served with spaghetti, were never bigger than a golf ball, and could be made with any meat from fish to chicken to turkey! It was also considered a cheap "peasant food," so it is usually made and served at home rather than at restaurants.

Polpettes grew bigger as somewhat impoverished Italian immigrants realized that they were able to afford more meat in America than they'd been able to at home. It was also a way for them to make cheaper and lower quality meat more appealing by mixing it with herbs, spices, breadcrumbs, and sauces.

Marinara sauce made from canned tomatoes and spaghetti gradually became meatballs' traditional accompaniments because they were also quite cheap, and they were some of the only Italian ingredients readily available in US grocery stores.

Plus, Americans already expected a starchy side dish be served with their meal, so Italian eateries had no choice but to offer one up. Before you know it, spaghetti and meatballs was a bona-fide American staple!

Many other cultures have their own unique variations on meatballs or meatball-like dishes. There's Vietnamese bó viên, often served in a warm bowl of pho. There's Swedish köttbullar, traditionally dressed with a rich brown gravy.

The Chinese snack on large meatballs known as "Lions Heads," often with a side of cabbage, and Danes enjoy frikadellar, small pan-fried meatballs made of pork. Finally, Persian koftas may have been the ball that started it all!

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Meatballs may at first appear not to be too bad of a food choice, since beef itself is relatively healthy.However, many meatballs contain higher-calorie and lower-nutrient ingredients like cheese or breadcrumbs along with their meat. Meatballs can also be cooked with or covered with sugary and fatty sauces, and that's before we even get to the spaghetti, which is a major 123Diet no-no!

We recommend you experiment instead with serving your meatballs alongside lighter substitutes like konjac noodles in phase 2 and zucchini noodles on phase 3. Or, just serve them with any veggie you're in the mood for or even toss them onto a salad!

Our meatballs substitute the bread in many traditional meatball recipes for lower-calorie melba toast crumbs, and include plenty of flavorful fat-burning spices to boot!

You may want save these three recipes for Chicken Meatballs, Turkey Meatballs, and Albondigas (Mexican Meatballs) for International Meatball Day, which will be celebrated in a little over two weeks on March 9th. Or you could try them out for dinner tonight!

You can also check out our more traditional beef meatball recipe here, and feel free to pair any or all of the treasures below with our tasty marinara sauce!

Turkey Meatballs

Turkey Meatballs

These light meatballs are a perfect fit! Estimated nutritional value of 173 calories, 6.9g fat, 33mg cholesterol, 6.2g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 22.1g protein, .5g sugar.

Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook time
15 minutes
Yield
About 5 servings, or more like 5.5 if on Phase 2 to account for egg protein

Ingredients

  • 500gms Turkey mince
  • 1 tsp Keens curry powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp coriander dried
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 mini toasts smashed up
  • 1 egg
  • Cracked pepper to taste

Directions
Mix everything together, make balls and place on foil lined oven tray. Bake in 180 deg oven for 15 mins.

Recipe provided by

Chicken Meatballs

chicken meatballs

Estimated nutritional value of 116 calories, .9g fat. 2g cholesterol, 63 mg carbohydrate, .3g fiber, 25.4g protein, and .4g sugar.

Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook time
15 minutes
Yield
1 serving

Ingredients

  • 100 grams ground chicken breast
  • 1 teaspoon minced onion
  • 1 clove garlic crushed and minced
  • Pinch of sage
  • Pinch of marjoram
  • Pinch of thyme
  • Dash of onion powder
  • Dash of garlic powder

Directions
Combine ground chicken breast with spices, chopped garlic, onion, and crushed Melba toast. Form into balls. Bake in 180 deg oven for 15 mins.

Recipe provided by

Albondigas (Mexican Meatballs)

albondigas

You may have met your match in these Mexican meatballs! Estimated nutritional value of 293 calories, 7.2g fat. 89 mg cholesterol, 275 mg sodium, 1.9g fiber, 33.7g protein, and .6g sugar.

Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook time
15 minutes
Yield
1 serving

Ingredients

  • 100 grams lean ground beef
  • 1 serving Melba toast crumbs
  • Dash of onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced onion
  • 1 clove garlic crushed and minced
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Mix ground beef, Melba crumbs, finely diced onion, garlic, powdered spices and chopped cilantro. Form into balls and cook. Bake in 180 deg oven for 15 mins.

Recipe provided by

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