Meatballs can be on the menu when cooking for a crowd

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Hamburger accounts for about 50 percent of all the beef consumed in the United States and has replaced steak as the most popular meat. This is because of its lower price and, more important, its versatility. Much of it goes between hamburger buns. It is also the basis for meat loaves, meat sauce, chili con carne and meatballs, one of the most profitable ways to use ground meat.

If you always prepare them in the same old way as appetizers or with Italian spaghetti, you may be interested to learn that from 6 pounds of hamburger, using 1 pound per recipe, it is possible to prepare a half dozen different main-dish meatball meals, none of which duplicates the other. This is possible adding other ingredients to the meat, by using different seasonings, and by cooking them in or with a variety of sauces.

When there is a sale on hamburger, buy in quantity and make several batches of different kinds of meatballs. Serve what you need for one meal and freeze the rest as the basis for some exciting dinners. They will keep up to two or three months in the freezer.

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Here are some very distinctive meatball recipes for meals that will whet the appetites of family and guests.

The first is for an economical and hearty Meatball Soup. It requires only 1 pound of beef; the meatballs cook right in the pot without pre-browning; it cooks in 35 minutes and makes about 6 servings. Meatball Soup 1 quart beef broth 1 pound lean ground beef 1 egg 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 10 scallions with tops, cut in 1/2-inch pieces 1 cup thinly sliced celery 1 cup thinly sliced carrots 1/2 of small head cabbage, shredded 2 tomatoes, peeled and cut in eighths 1/2 cup rice 1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon basil 2 to 3 tablspoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons minced parsley

In large kettle, heat broth to simmer. Meanwhile mix beef, egg, salt, and pepper together well. Shape into 1 1/2-inch balls. Drop into broth. Add scallions, celery, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, rice, bay leaf, and basil. Cover and simmer 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Stir in soy sauce. Top each serving with parsley. Serves 4 to 6. Meatballs with Tomato and Zucchini Sauce 1 pound lean ground beef 1 cup soft bread crumbs 1/4 cup finely chopped onion 1/4 cup finely chopped celery 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1 egg 1 teaspoon garlic salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 16-ounce can stewed tomatoes 2 1/2 cups zucchini, thinly sliced 1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano 1/2 teaspoon basil 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 cup beef broth, canned or made with bouillon cube 3 cups hot cooked rice

Combine beef, bread crumbs, onion, celery, Worcestershire sauce, egg, garlic salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Form into 12 meat balls. Place in a greased shallow baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees F. oven 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes and zucchini with remaining seasonings and simmer 5 minutes. Blend cornstarch and broth together. Stir into tomato mixture. Pour over meatballs and continue baking 10 minutes longer. Serve over beds of fluffy rice. Serves 6. Speedy Meatballs Stroganoff 1 pound lean ground beef 1 egg, lightly beaten 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs 1 tablespoon instant minced onion 1 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon pepper 3/4 cup water 2 tablespoon oil 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms 2 tablespoons flour 1/2 cup water 1 beef bouillon cube 1 tablespoon tomate paste 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard 1/8 teaspoon dill weed 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt

Combine beef, egg, bread crumbs, onion, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup water and mix well. Shape into balls 1 1/2-inch in diameter. Brown in heated oil, shaking pan. Remove meatballs as fast as they brown. Add mushrooms and brown lightly. Stur flour into drippings in pan. Add 1/2 cup water, bouillon cube, the remaining half cup water, tomato paste, mustard and dill. Stir until sauce boils and thickens. Return meatballs to skillet. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add sour cream or yogurt and heat but do not boil. Serve at once over hot buttered noodles. Serves 4 to 5. HAwaiian-style Meatballs 1 cup rice 1/2 cup sliced almonds 1/4 cup margarine or butter 1/2 teaspoon thyme 1/4 teaspoon tarragon 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs 1/2 cup milk 1 pound ground beef 4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided 1 egg 11-pound 4-ounce can sliced pineapple 1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 tablespoon sugar 2 tablespoons vinegar

Cook rice in salted boiling water as package directs. Mix almonds, margarine , thyme, tarragon, and pepper into hot cooked rice. Keep warm. Meanwhile, mix bread crumbs with milk. Combine ground beef, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, and the egg. Work in the bread crumb mixture and form into balls. Fry meatballs in hot , lightly oiled skillet, adding them to the pan gradually so it doesn't cool down. Arrange hot rice in center of serving platter and surround with the meatballs. Keep warm.

Drain and reserve juice from pineapple. Mix juice with cornstarch, sugar, vinegar, and remaining 1 tablespoons of soy sauce. Stir into dripping left in the skillet and heat, stirring until it is thickened and comes to a boil. Add salt to taste. Add pineapple slices. Heat through quick ly, then add to platter. Pour the sauce over all. Serves 6

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