Not just another meatball….with 2 little changes to the usual recipe, these Italian Meatballs are extra juicy, extra soft and with an extra little something in the flavour that will have everybody begging for seconds – and thirds!
This Italian Meatball recipe was originally published August 2015. Long overdue for a video and new photos – no change to recipe, I wouldn’t dare!
I don’t want to blow my own horn, but I’m determined to do everything I can to make you want to try these meatballs and if that means a mini brag sheet, then so be it. So here we go:
Just a few Italian Meatballs recipe reviews….
“Your meatball recipe is the same as my Italian Nonna! Love the idea of soaking the bread in onion juice rather than milk….. Will make them like this from now on (won’t tell Nonna!)” – Dan, 20 July, 2018
“This recipe is better than my Italian family’s .….. This is going to be my current family pass down to future generations.” – Rosemary, 19 March, 20181
“… we had a meatball cook off at work… and guess who won!!!! Thank you Nagi!!!!” – Angie, 18 August 2017
* And her head swells….. though also, she is actually just really happy to think about all the meatballs being made and enjoyed by people in the far corners of this big wide world*
JUST TWO LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
1. Soaked bread = soft meatalls. Bread soaked in some form of liquid puffs up when cooked, creating little air pockets that makes meatballs extra soft. It works far better than ordinary breadcrumbs which actually has the tendency to make meatballs tough little balls (panko breadcrumbs is ok though), and the Italians have been doing this for years.
Italians use milk for soaking. I use grated onion – see next point.
2. Soak bread in grated onion = better flavour. Grating the onions serves a few purposes.
- Flavour – 80% of my recipes start with “sauté onion until golden”. And there’s a reason for that. Onion is a flavour base that can’t be beaten, and I want it in my meatballs;
- Soaking – it’s the juicy grated onion that is used to soak the bread, rather than milk or water which is what other recipes use. This way the liquid balance is not thrown out of balance.
- No need to cook onion separately – If you use raw diced onion in the meatballs, you run the risk of having raw onions in them – unless you cook them for longer in which case you risk of overcooking the meatballs!
- No need to finely chop onion – because unless they are very finely diced, there is a tendency for the onion to affect how well the meatball holds together. Make your life easier – grated the onion! (Wear goggles if it makes your eyes water…)
This is how I roll meatballs
I have often wished for someone to invent a compact meatball rolling device. I have visions of a bike pump type contraption where you feed the meat into one end and perfectly formed meatballs pop out the other.
If you’re thinking what I think you are – get your mind out of the gutter and just imagine how convenient that would be!!!
But until such time, this is the most efficient way I’ve been able to come up with for rolling meatballs.
You won’t find Spaghetti and Meatballs in Italy….
Yes, really! In Italy, meatballs are called Polpette.Though the ingredients are typically the same as what I am using (except for my grated onion technique) along with a similar tomato sauce, they are larger (about the size of golf balls) and they are served with bread rather than pasta.
So Spaghetti and Meatballs is not authentic Italian, but that’s ok. Just as there’s no such thing as Beef and Broccoli in China, and no Chicken Tikka Masala in India, we love it anyway and we will always love it. – Nagi x
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Classic Italian Meatballs (Extra Soft and Juicy)
Recipe video above. These are my idea of “perfect” meatballs. I make them extra soft and juicy by using bread instead of breadcrumbs, and the grated onion is my secret tip for adding extra flavour into this. Plus, no need to sauté diced onion before mixing it in! Served with a rich tomato sauce made extra tasty by cooking it in the same pan that the meatballs are browned in.
- 1 lightly packed cup of sliced white sandwich bread (, torn into small pieces, crusts removed (Note 1))
- 1 small onion ((brown, white or yellow))
- 14 oz / 400 g ground beef ((mince))
- 3 oz / 100g ground pork ((mince), or sub with more beef (Note 2))
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley (, finely chopped (Note 3))
- 2 garlic cloves (, minced)
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano ((or parmesan), freshly grated)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
Cooking Meatballs & Sauce
- 2.5 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves (, minced)
- 3/4 cup onion (, finely chopped (white, brown or yellow))
- 24 oz / 700 g tomato passata ((also known as Tomato Puree in America – Note 4))
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes ((chili flakes))
- 3 tsp dried Italian herb mix ((parsley, basil, thyme, oregano))
- 1 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- Pasta of choice ((I like spaghetti and twirls!))
- Parmigiano-Reggiano ((or parmesan), freshly grated)
- Parsley (, finely chopped (optional))
Grate the onion using a standard box grater in a large bowl until you have about 1/2 cup of grated onion and juices. Add bread, mix to combine so the onion juice soaks the bread.
- Add all the remaining Meatball ingredients except the olive oil. Use you hands to mix well.
- Measure out a heaped tablespoon and roll lightly to form a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture. (Note 5)
Heat 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a large non stick fry pan over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and brown all over – about 3 – 4 minutes.
- When they are browned but NOT cooked through, carefully transfer them onto a plate.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil into the fry pan.
Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add the remaining Sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then turn down to medium low so it bubbles gently rather than splattering everywhere.
- Carefully transfer the meatballs and any juices that have pooled on the plate into the Sauce.
Cook the meatballs for 8 – 10 minutes, turning and stirring occasionally. Adjust Sauce salt and pepper to taste.
- While the meatballs are cooking, cook your pasta of choice.
- Serve the meatballs on pasta, garnished with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano and parsley if using.
1. Bread – Plain white sandwich bread is best for this, but you can substitute with other breads. Tear or chop into small pieces, do not include the crust. Slightly stale bread is fine.
If you prefer, you can substitute with 1/2 cup breadcrumbs – preferably panko. But the meatballs won’t be as soft!
2. Meat – Pork is slightly fattier than beef so it helps make these extra juicy and gives it a slightly richer flavour. Feel free to just use 1 lb / 500 g beef mince which is what I do on ordinary nights, or use other ground/mince meat of choice.
3. Herbs – You can substitute with 1 1/2 tbsp dried parsley, or a mix of equal amounts of dried oregano, thyme, basil and parsley. You could also use an Italian herb mix if you wanted to.
4. Tomato passata is just pureed, strained tomatoes, called tomato puree in the US and Canada. Readily available in Australian supermarkets nowadays, alongside pasta sauces. If you can’t find it, puree canned tomatoes or use crushed canned tomatoes.
5. How I roll meatballs – see video/photos in post.
6. Nutrition per serving assuming 5 servings, meatballs only.
Originally published August 2015. Updated with new photos, video and commentary in August 2018. No change to recipe – I wouldn’t dare!
LIFE OF DOZER
Bush walk. In hunt of something stinky to roll in – always.