Having a batch of meatballs ready in the freezer enables you to make a weeknight meal feel like a Sunday feast. Already packaged frozen meatballs are available, but they often contain numerous preservatives and fillers. Make your own, and freeze them raw or cooked for a quick protein source with quality ingredients and a homemade touch.
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Meatballs made with any type of ground meat freeze successfully before being cooked. Follow a meatball recipe of choice and shape the mixture into balls. Place the uncooked meatballs in one layer onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Make sure the meatballs don't touch one another, or they may freeze together. Place in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the balls are firm. Remove the trays from the freezer and place the balls in a zipper-topped freezer bag to easily store them for up to three months.
Freezing Cooked Meatballs
Freeze cooked meatballs for an even faster reheat on busy weeknights. Follow your favorite meatball recipe, and brown in a pan or under a broiler. Finish cooking them in the oven. Allow them to cool and then arrange the balls in a single layer on a greased baking pan; place in the freezer for up to an hour, or until firm. Transfer to a freezer bag to store for about one month.
Tomato-based sauces freeze well. If you have leftover meatballs already cooked in sauce, you can place the sauce and balls in a glass container that has a tight-fitting lid. Cool thoroughly, seal with the lid and place the container in the freezer. Make sure the container is filled up without a lot of space at the top, to avoid the development of condensation, which results in ice crystals and possible freezer burn. Consume the meatballs within a month of freezing. Avoid freezing meatballs in a cream-based sauce, as the sauce tends to separate and look curdled upon reheating.
Thaw frozen meatballs -- cooked, raw or sauced -- in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. You can cook small meatballs from the frozen state -- simply broil the raw versions for 10 to 14 minutes, turning once, or until cooked through. Thawed raw meatballs may be browned in a pan and finished in the oven or by simmering in sauce. Small cooked meatballs can be reheated by dropping directly into a sauce of choice and bringing up to heat.
If you've frozen meatballs in sauce, thoroughly thaw the mixture first and then place into a a saucepan over medium heat until the desired temperature is reached. Note that meatballs frozen in sauce can tend to fall apart, so stir carefully and only every so often. Cover the mixture as it reheats to prevent splattering and to expedite the reheating process.