This is the best meatballs recipe for the tastiest, juiciest Italian style meatballs. Based on a traditional Southern Italian meatball typically made with ricotta, parmesan and pecorino cheeses, the meatballs are fried until brown then simmered in a rich classic Italian tomato sauce. Serve as the Italians do with a rucola salad – or (shhh…) your favourite pasta.
My best meatballs recipe will make you the tastiest, juiciest Italian style meatballs of the kind your mum probably made in the 1970s and served with spaghetti. Remember those?! The recipe is based on the classic Southern Italian meatballs called polpette, made in Sicily and Calabria with ricotta, parmesan and pecorino cheeses that are fried until brown then simmered in a tomato sauce.
If you made my incredibly rich and delicious homemade Italian tomato sauce recipe, which can be used for pasta, meatballs, pizza, and parmas then here’s what you need to do with it: pour it into your biggest fry pan or skillet and put it on the stove to heat it up so you can simmer these juicy meatballs in it after you’ve finished frying them.
And if you haven’t made our tomato sauce yet, don’t worry, it’s so quick and easy that I’ve incorporated it into my best meatballs recipe for the juiciest Italian style meatballs, below.
This recipe is next in a series of posts on some of my favourite classic Italian-style recipes, all of which make use of this rich tomato sauce, including my spaghetti with meatballs recipe and recipe for Italian-Australian chicken parmigiana or chicken parma, as we call the breaded chicken cutlets topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella.
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Best Meatballs Recipe for the Tastiest Juiciest Italian Style Meatballs
Like most Australian children of the Seventies who helped their parents in the kitchen, knowing how to help make the tastiest juiciest meatballs became part of my skill-set – along with the ability to bread schnitzels, bake cheese straws, make chocolate crackles, do the French onion dip, and help with the potato salad.
Having grown up assisting my Russian grandmother make the moistest chicken cutlets I’ve ever tasted also contributed to my meatball-making craft – as did my dad’s instructions on the art of making a great burger patty of which he was a master-craftsman.
If you’re also a child of the Seventies, you know what I’m talking about: soaking white bread in milk (instead of using breadcrumbs), learning how to crack an egg into the mixture (to bind everything together), and combining the mixture with your hands (to form loose rustic meatballs instead of tight firm meatballs).
No long stories today, as I’m going to tell you more about Italian meatballs in the next post in this series. This is a super-simple recipe despite the long list of ingredients, and it comes together quickly to make what I think is the best meatballs recipe for the tastiest, juiciest Italian style meatballs. Enjoy!
Tips to Making our Best Meatballs Recipe for the Juiciest Italian Meatballs
Just a few tips to making my best meatballs recipe for juicy Italian style meatballs. Use your trusty fry pan or skillet, although I use a round flat bottomed wok to heat the olive oil and fry the diced onion until soft and translucent. A lot of recipes call for raw onion, but soft fried onion is key for me.
You can use breadcrumbs if you prefer (and if you do, we recommend Panko breadcrumbs), and I do use them in other meatball recipes, but for this old-fashioned meatballs recipe, I do as my mother and grandmother did and soak white bread in whole milk as that’s one of the secrets to super-moist meatballs.
Another old-school secret is using fatty pork mince instead of lean ground pork, as fatty meat equals juicy meat. If you’re using lean meat then you add extra olive oil or butter.
The Southern Italian style meatballs typically use ricotta cheese and some also use parmesan and pecorino cheeses, and that combination is perfect for this meatball recipe, but use what you have.
A lot of traditional recipes call for parsley, which is usually continental parsley or flat leaf parsley. I also like to use celery leaves, both in the meatball mixture and sprinkle on top as garnish.
Serve the meatballs as the Southern Italians do, at the centre of the table, sprinkled with chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, celery leaves or fragrant basil, with a simple salad of fresh rucola tossed in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or with your favourite pasta.
Best Meatballs Recipe for Juicy Italian Meatballs
- 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
- 250 g onion finely diced
- 40 g white bread crusts removed
- 4 tbsp whole milk
- 400 g ground fatty pork
- 250 g ground beef
- 1 egg whisked
- 60 g ricotta cheese – or another white cheese
- 20 g grated parmesan cheese
- 20 g grated pecorino cheese
- 2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley or celery leaves finely chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp ground paprika
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 600 ml our homemade Italian tomato sauce see notes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley celery leaves or fresh basil leaves
- In a fry pan or round flat-bottomed wok, heat the olive oil and fry the diced onion until soft and translucent, then transfer to a dish and refrigerate to cool to room temperature.
- In a large mixing bowl, soak the white bread in whole milk, then add the ground fatty pork and ground beef, whisked egg, ricotta, parmesan and pecorino cheeses, fried onion, chopped flat leaf parsley or celery leaves, and seasonings, and combine with your hands.
- Using a tablespoon and kitchen scales, scoop out 40 g of the ground meat mixture and roll it a few times between your two hands to form a meat ball. Don’t over-roll as you want the mixture loose to produce a more rustic meatball rather than a tight ball. Transfer it to a tray and repeat until you’ve used up all the mixture, then refrigerate until ready to fry.
- In a large frying pan/skillet, make our homemade Italian tomato sauce using our recipe (link above) then turn the heat down to low and simmer while you fry the meatballs.
- To another large frying pan/skillet over medium heat, add the cup of olive oil and heat until hot, then, using long tongs, transfer enough meatballs to fill the pan without touching. Fry the meatballs until they’re brown, using the tongs to rotate so that they’re evenly coloured, then transfer to the pan with tomato sauce. Repeat until all meatballs are fried and are all in the pan then simmer for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Serve as the Southern Italian do, at the centre of the table. Sprinkle with chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, celery leaves or fragrant basil, with a simple salad of fresh rucola tossed in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or with your favourite pasta.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make our best meatballs recipe, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.