Add Pine Nuts to Meatballs

I don’t think I’ve come across meatballs that I didn’t like, but they did surprise me from time to time. Sometimes I am struck by an unusual meat concoction or maybe an unexpected spice. I was recently struck by an unexpected ingredient: To boost the richness, nuttiness, and nice texture of your meatballs, add some toasted pine nuts.

If you are already doing this, bravo. For some reason, fate has been waiting until now to reveal to me the secret miracle of pine nuts in meatballs. I recently bought a giant meatball (almost a meaty baseball cap) from Brancaccio’s, a local Italian store where I buy red sauce treats weekly. They were open about it—the label said it contained both raisins and pine nuts—so my interest was piqued. The meatballs were fantastic and I couldn’t help but notice the distinct yet subtle characteristics that the pine nuts added to the mix. (You might be thinking, “What about raisins?” Well, I’m not a big fan of raisins at best, so suffice it to say about those two ingredients, I only add pine nuts and pine nuts to my meatballs.)

Pine nuts are the seeds of several specific types of pine and are used in recipes for pesto and incredibly delicious pignoli biscuits . In addition to the richness provided by the natural pine nut oils, they impart a palpable note of resin, sweetness and… hay. (Is it too late to become a seed sommelier?) These qualities make it a remarkably flexible ingredient, so it works in everything from savory sauces to cookies. The texture of piñolis is much softer than many other seeds and nuts, which is why they pair so well with meatballs where you don’t necessarily want to run into hard, crunchy pieces. Pine nuts are tasty but not brittle, and the flavor they give off is just worthy of a wish.

If you’re hesitant to include toasted pine nuts in your meatball mix, at least try sprinkling them on top of your next pasta dish and see if you like the flavor they add. The recipe below includes a large portion of the title ingredient, but feel free to adjust it to your liking.

Meatballs with pine nuts


  • 5 ounces ground beef
  • 3 ounces minced pork
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped (I used Trader Joe’s pre-roasted pine nuts )
  • 1 teaspoon dry basil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (replace ⅛ teaspoon dry thyme)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon umami seasoning

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a medium saucepan or any wide skillet or saucepan.

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together until they are completely combined. Roll up small meatballs about the size of a tablespoon and arrange them on a plate until the whole mixture is shaped.

Swirl the olive oil over medium heat until it coats the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Put the meatballs on the bottom of the pan and cover with a lid. Cook for about five minutes, or until the meatballs are a little color on the bottom. Toss them once so they cook on the other side for a couple of minutes. Stir the meatballs again until browned on most sides and cooked through. Enjoy meatballs any way you like.


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