Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Meatballs Make Big Moves in the Snacking Category Hearty, versatile and familiar, meatballs roll out a winning shareables strategy

A sizzling skillet of Italian-style meatballs is bathed in fonduta and tomato sauce, served with French bread for convivial dipping.

Meatballs carry flavor, offering diners everything from safe, familiar bets to serious adventure. Making them snackable requires a playfulness in both flavor and presentation. Skillets are a smart way to make meatballs a shareable, bringing them to the table in a homey, rustic presentation that drives home their comfort-food status.

At Ousia, a Greek restaurant in New York, the Kos Meatballs, served in a cast-iron skillet, are made with ground beef and lamb, nestled in a cumin tomato sauce and topped with Greek yogurt. “Our meatball recipe stems from generations of home recipes passed down to our kitchen,” says Ousia manager Enrico Livanos.

“The hint of cumin in the sauce brings a warmth to the flavor that is followed by the soft tenderness of the beef and lamb mixture.”

More Meatballs, Please!

Datassential reports that menu mentions of meatballs over the last four years have gone up:
Beef meatballs UP 21%
Lamb meatballs UP 20%
Chicken meatballs UP 14%

Plenty of creative meatball dishes are popping up on bar-bite menus across the country:

  • Nonna’s Meatballs: Giant brisket meatballs, pomodoro and lemon ricotta
    —Tavernonna Italian Kitchen, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Duck Meatballs with grits, heirloom tomato, Parmesan
    —Kettner Exchange, San Diego, Calif.
  • Pork Meatballs with broccoli rabe and pesto
    —Fausto, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Stuffed Meatballs with caciocavallo, peppers, onions and mustard seeds
    —Iron Gate, Washington, D.C.

About The Author

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Katie Ayoub is managing editor of Flavor & The Menu. She has been working in foodservice publishing for more than 16 years and on the Flavor team since 2006. She won a 2015 Folio award for her Flavor & The Menu article, Heritage Matters. In 2006, she won “Best Culinary Article” from the Cordon D’Or for an article on offal.