How many Italians does it take to cook the world’s largest meatball?
The Guinness World Record was set on Hilton Head Island.
Story by Carmen Hawkins DeCecco
Each year, the Italian-American Club of Hilton Head hosts four to five public events to raise money for community charities. In 2017, they decided to add a little something extra to the mix.
That year, they entered the Guinness World Records challenge for making the World’s Largest Meatball; a record that previously stood at 1,100 pounds. Mindful of Hilton Head Island’s No. 1 status in travel magazines, they left nothing to chance on this prestigious competition, and of course, beat the record soundly, producing a cooked and edible meatball (requirements for winning) weighing in at 1,707.08 pounds. The final result was shared in sandwiches all around at that year’s Italian Heritage Festival, while the Guinness adjudicator announced the club had broken the World Record. And since that was a whole lot of meatball, the rest was cut into bricks, wrapped and donated to Second Helpings. Everyone’s a winner when Italians are cooking.
So, what does it take to create a meatball that size (besides questionable sanity)? Lots of dedicated volunteers, organization, generous, and talented business people to donate space, equipment, and services, and, at least one retired NASA engineer. Pretty simple right?
For the first time in two years, the IACHH, and Chef Joe Sullivan, owner of Mulberry Street Trattoria in Bluffton, have released the secret process of creating such a testament to modern human ingenuity. It seems they aren’t worried someone will attempt to copy their endeavor. You’ll see why. Brace yourself.
Have a ball
If this recipe seems a little daunting, or if you don’t have a custom-made iron pod on hand to cook 1,500 pounds of ground meat, there’s a more manageable recipe from the Maggi Family (Joe and Dot) on the next page.
“My father usually made this dish from a recipe that has been in our family for over 70 years,” Joe said. “He grew up on Thompson Street in Little Italy on the lower east side of Manhattan. He obtained the recipe from his mother, who immigrated to the US in 1908 from the town of Spinoso in the Basilicata region of southern Italy. Last year I went with my wife, my sister and brother-in-law to visit this town. Through the help of the town registrar and a local poliziotto, we met distant cousins (the grandchildren of my grandmother’s sister). A very exciting visit all around.”
1,707.08 Pound Meatball
Ingredients (serves 4,500)
1,500 pounds ground beef and pork (percentage of each, your call)
94 pounds garlic
225 pounds breadcrumbs
38 pounds salt
38 pounds pepper
19 pounds oregano
47 pounds water
Directions  Mix all ingredients in giant mixing bowl provided by Marek Belka, friendly owner of the French Bakery.  Pour into giant custom-made pod, designed by innovative iron artist, Kevin Lawless.  On forklift, carry pod to custom-made oven with calibrated steel rods designed to measure the temperature all the way through the meatball.  Schedule round-the-clock security guards (ie; two IACHH volunteers), to maintain the sacred meatball vigil.  Cook for five days until
all of Shelter Cove Towne Centre smells like an enormous pizza.  Serve to 4,500 people.
Prep time from drawing board to the completed product: 17 months
My Father’s Meatballs
6 slices of stale bread, cut into half-inch squares
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 pound ground beef (preferably 90% lean)
Oregano, basil, salt, and black pepper spices to taste
Directions  Heat oven to 375 degrees. Soak bread squares in milk. Chunks of bread are important; they add softness to your meatball and help absorb sauces.  Mix meat, onion, parsley, cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs and spices together. Squeeze excess milk out of the bread squares before combining it into mix. Make a small test meatball by taking a small amount of your mixture and cook it in a fry pan, taste and add spices if needed.  Form your mixture into approximately 2-inch diameter balls. This makes about 10-12 meatballs.  Place each onto a slightly greased baking pan. Bake until brown, about 25-30 minutes, turning once.
Serving: These meatballs can be served in tomato sauce with pasta, in sandwiches with melted cheese or as a side dish. They can also be frozen. They thaw quickly for last-minute meals.