The tastiest Italian meatballs recipe ever! (Even lovely old Nonna will be asking you for the recipe after she tastes these meatballs!) Serve over spaghetti or any pasta. Alternatively, you could use rice, cous cous, or fresh bread – the traditional Italian way.
I hate to burst your bubble, but in Italy, meatballs aren’t usually served with spaghetti (except, perhaps, to tourists!). Shocking, I know! In typical Italian restaurants and family homes, meatballs are served with an accompaniment of thick-cut fresh bread. Just ask old Nonna!
There are almost as many methods for making meatballs as there are Italians in Italy. As such, I have pretty much made it my life’s goal to taste every meatball recipe I’ve ever found. And you will reap the rewards! My Italian meatball recipe takes the best from all the others and combines them to make the ultimate meatball recipe.
I’ve included a few little-known tricks just for you – tips that will make your life considerably easier (and tastier):
- Firstly, I make my own ‘breadcrumbs’ from sandwich loaf slices. Yes, just ordinary white bread. The breadcrumbs add fluffiness to the finished meatball, as well as helping it to bind.
- Secondly, I’ve scratched the usual method of soaking the breadcrumbs in milk. Just like Nonna does it, I soak my breadcrumbs in onion juice. Honestly! I grate an onion! It can get messy, but it adds loads of flavor. I used to giggle when my Grandma did this, but it really works well.
- However, if grating onions isn’t your thing, you can lightly sauté the onion for the meatballs instead. Then soak the bread in 1/2 cup milk for about 10 minutes (while you prepare the rest).
- Thirdly, if you have access to fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, thyme), please use them instead! Replace the dried Italian herbs with 1 teaspoon each of the fresh herbs.
- Lastly, have you ever worn swimming goggles while preparing onion?? If you want to save your eyes (and give your family a laugh), give it a go! It was my daughter’s suggestion, but it really works!
- Large skillet/ frypan
- 1 pound ground beef (500 grams)
- ½ pound ground pork (250 grams)
- 1½ cups lightly packed sandwich bread (diced, no crusts)
- ⅓ cup fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
- 1 large onion
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese (or pecorino romano for more bite!) (grated)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- 2 pounds tomato puree (spaghetti sauce, passata) (1kg)
- 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 2 spring onions (chopped)
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 teaspoons dried Italian herb mix
- 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 1 pound spaghetti or any pasta (or rice, cous cous, etc) (500 grams)
- Into a medium sized bowl, grate the onion. Allow all the onion juices as well as the pulp to remain in the bowl.
- Put your diced white bread pieces into the onion-y bowl and cover the bread as much as possible with the onion juices.
- Set bread & onion bowl aside while you get on with the meatballs. This gives the bread time to absorb the onion juices.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, pork, parsley, garlic, beaten eggs, chili flakes, salt & pepper, and the 1/4 cup of grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese.
- Mix the ingredients together well.
- Add in the bread & onion mixture (including any remaining onion juices).
- Mix together with the other meatball ingredients.
- Using a tablespoon, scoop out similar-sized portions of meatball mixture.
- Wet your hands then roll each portion into a roughly walnut-sized ball in the palm of your hands.
- Don't worry too much about the meatballs being perfectly shaped – you don't want to 'over-roll' them and have them become tough.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet/ frypan over medium heat.
- Now you will cook your meatballs in batches.
- Add some of your meatballs to the skillet/ frypan and cook for 4 – 5 minutes, turning frequently until browned all over. The idea is to sear them (that is, seal in all that yummy flavor), not cook them just yet.
- As the meatballs finish browning, set them aside on a large plate while you cook more batches.
- Please don't over-crowd the pan!
- When all the meatballs have been browned and are sitting on a plate off to the side, you will start the meatball sauce in the still-hot skillet/ pan.
- If there is olive oil left in the skillet, you can use it. If you need more, add another tablespoon or two.
- Add in the garlic and spring onions.
- Saute for 2 -3 minutes.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce, herbs (dried or fresh), dried chili flakes, and tomato puree.
- Stir gently while bringing the sauce to a simmer.
- Reduce heat to low.
- Use tongs to gently replace all the meatballs (and juices) into the skillet/ frypan.
- Spoon a little sauce over the meatballs so that all are juicy.
- Allow the meatballs to cook in the sauce for 10 minutes, gently turning and stirring occasionally.
- While the meatballs are cooking, cook your spaghetti or any type of pasta – or rice, cous cous etc. Italians eat meatballs with thick slices of fresh bread – just saying!
- When your pasta is 'al dente' or your rice/ cous cous is fluffy, serve it with a hearty portion of meatballs and sauce on top.
- You coud add a little extra grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top if you fancy.
I’ve got several options for you so that you can totally personalize my meatball recipe and make it your own. Whether you’re calorie-conscious, or just keen to try something different, I’ve got some ideas you might like.
- Bake them! I’ll include the baking option below.
- Leave out the ground pork. However, please be aware that this will make your meatballs a little less moist.
- Choose a leaner variety of ground beef and/ or pork. I prefer to use an 80% meat, 20% fat combination, but you can ask your butcher for 90/10.
- Reduce some of the ground beef and replace with diced, steamed vegetables. For example, mushroom, aubergine (eggplant), sweet potato, etc. Did you know that ground beef has three times more calories than ground beef?!
- Omit the bread. However, note that the onion-soaked bread gives the meatballs flavor AND some fluffiness. (Yes, fluffiness!) If you omit the onion-soaked bread, please add the grated onion directly into the mixture.
I really do hope you love these Italian meatballs as much as I do. I’d love to get some feedback from you, so please comment below.
Until next time!
Love & ‘ti voglio bene‘, Bx