I like a garlicky, moist meatball that can handle extended cooking or baking without drying out. A standard trick to keep them moist is to add bread crumbs soaked in milk to the mix, along with eggs as a binder. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped garlic are typical as well, and I’ve added a fistful of chopped parsley both for the green contrast and because it tastes good.
If you’re going to go to the trouble to make meatballs, it seems a shame to make up a small batch. My base meatball recipe makes twenty-six to twenty-eight 2-inch meatballs, but sometimes my enthusiasm goes wild and they become comically large for a pizza. And that’s just fine with me. You only need four meatballs, cut in half, for one pizza of the size we make in the home kitchen oven, so you might want to halve this recipe. Better yet, invite a crowd and make pizza and spaghetti and meatballs. Pour lots of red wine. You can also use the meatballs for a Grandma pie on a half sheet pan, which would use up about twelve halved meatballs.
For meatball pizza, bake the meatballs in an ovenproof skillet (I can fit fourteen in one 9-inch skillet) while the oven is warming up. Then, after they have cooled slightly, slice them in half. Placing meatballs cut side down is essential to making sure they hold their position and don’t roll around when you scootch the pizza into your oven. Round meatballs have poor directional sense.
- If you use a dough recipe that calls for refrigeration, remove your dough ball from the refrigerator about 60 to 90 minutes before baking pizza. Put your pizza steel or stone on an upper rack in your oven no more than 8 inches below the broiler. Preheat the oven to 550°F (290°C) for 45 minutes.
- Put the meatballs in a skillet and place on a lower oven rack beneath the preheating pizza steel or stone, after the oven has reached temperature. Remove after 10 minutes. The meatballs should be cooked almost completely through. Slice in half once cooled and set aside.
- Set up your pizza assembly station. Give yourself about 2 feet of width on the countertop. Moderately flour the work surface. Position your wooden peel next to the floured area and dust it lightly with flour. Have the sauce, cheeses, and sliced meatballs at hand, plus a ladle or large spoon for the sauce. Switch the oven to broil 10 minutes before loading the pizza.
- To shape the pizza, put the dough ball on the floured work surface and flip to coat both sides moderately with flour. Use one of the shaping methods (New York or Neapolitan). Transfer the disk of pizza dough to the peel. Run your hands around the perimeter to relax it and work out the kinks.
- Spread the tomato sauce over the dough to within 1⁄4 inch of the edge, smoothing it with the back of the spoon or ladle. Place the 8 meatball halves cut side down on top of the sauce. Sprinkle the grated pecorino cheese evenly over the meatballs and sauce. Spread the grated mozzarella evenly over the pizza.
- Turn off the broiler, then gently slide the pizza onto the pizza steel or stone. Close the oven door and change the oven setting to bake at 550°F (290°C). Bake for 5 minutes, until the rim is golden. Change the oven setting from bake to broil and let the pizza finish until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden with spots of brown and a few small spots of char, about 2 minutes (check it after 1 minute to be safe). Use tongs or a fork to slide the pizza from the pizza steel or stone onto a large plate. Serve halved or sliced.
- Soak the bread crumbs in the milk for 10 minutes, then drain off any excess milk. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix by hand (you can use vinyl kitchen gloves if you have them) until completely combined, but do not overmix.
- Shape the meatballs by scooping 60 grams of the meat mixture into the cup of your nondominant hand. Use the palm of your dominant hand to shape each meatball, going in a circular motion and pressing down slightly. The meatballs will have a diameter of approximately 2 inches. Cook as desired, or freeze for longer storage.
Reprinted with permission from The Elements of Pizza: Unlocking The Secrets to World-Class Pies At Home by Ken Forkish copyright ©2016. Photographs copyright 2016 ©by Alan Weiner. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.