Eric Lees, executive chef of Café Spiaggia, Chicago, takes great pride in his meatballs. It’s an art that he has perfected over the years that starts with a blend of pork neck, which is braised for three hours before grinding, along with pork shoulder, Calabrian chilis, garlic and milk-soaked breadcrumbs. After hand-forming the balls, he deep fries them to develop texture. They are then finished as they cook in his fresh Pomodoro sauce.

“The end result is 100% worth the time-consuming process,” he said.

Industrial meatball manufacturers have their own approaches to crafting gourmet meatballs.

Rosina Food Products Inc., Buffalo, NY, for example, focuses on flavor combinations and preparation process.

Frozen Oven Fired Artisan Meatballs come in meal-portioned 2-oz balls and appetizer-size 0.5-oz balls. Fully cooked, these meatballs go from freezer to meal-ready in under 60 seconds. The Pineapple Chorizo variety is made with fresh ground pork, serrano chili peppers and sweet bits of pineapple. Smoky Maple Bacon meatballs start with a base of premium quality pork. Applewood smoked bacon is added and the balls get finished with sweet maple. The Tuscan-Style Veal meatballs are crafted with authentic Italian ingredients including veal, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, and basil and oregano spices.

Applegate, Bridgewater, NJ, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods, is rolling out Applegate Well Carved, a new line designed to satisfy conscientious consumers who are being mindful of their meat intake and its nutritional, ethical and environmental impact. The line includes Well Carved Meatballs in Organic Asian Style Pork with brown rice, green onion, carrot and parsley, and Organic Mediterranean Style Turkey with lentils, feta cheese and spinach.

Fredericksburg, Pa.-based Bell & Evans now offers three varieties of uncooked, frozen artisan chicken meatballs made from dark meat chicken and skin, which are nitrogen frozen to lock in natural flavor. The Parmesan Breaded Chicken Meatballs contain a blend of mozzarella cheese, garlic and Italian seasonings with a light Parmesan breading. The Buffalo Seasoned Chicken Meatballs have a mild-to-medium heat and are gluten free. The traditional Chicken Meatballs are also gluten free and contain high-quality organic seasonings.