Our Favourite Italian Meatballs
Gayle McLeod | April 8, 2015
These are everything a meatball should be. Flavourful, tender and smothered in a rich tomato sauce. If you like making life easy, double the recipe and freeze some for an even faster fix the next time you're in need of something insanely delicious and satisfying.
Updated February 18th, 2018: Now that we've made this recipe countless times, I can confidently say these meatballs are not to be out-done. Arguably the best I've personally ever had, rivaling some I've enjoyed in local restaurants. This has become an essential back-pocket recipe that makes me look like a rock star even when I sorely lack in the inspiration department (which happens more than you might think!).
Originally mentioning just spaghetti as the suggested serving option was, in fact, a disservice. These meatballs are clearly the hero and truthfully require nothing more than a fork to be thoroughly enjoyed; but there are currently four different ways I love to serve 'em up, and while I've posted enthusiastically about them over on Instagram, I've been dying to share them with you here, all in one place.
Now, before we delve into those ideas, let's have a quick chat about the amount of cheese in these meatballs. I am sensitive to the fact that the measure I've called for is bordering on financially irresponsible, so if after reading the recipe you thought you might reduce the cheese by, let's say – half; you absolutely could, and they will still be mouthwateringly delicious. The same can also be said for the amount of garlic. In fact, my darlings recently requested that I reduce both the cheese and the garlic by half in the next batch. Which I did – right after I confirmed they hadn't been possessed by something out of Stranger Things – and we still devoured them like heathens.
What I'm trying to say is this: If you're on team "Gimme All The Cheese and Garlic," make the recipe as is and you’ll be delighted.
If you're asking yourself, who does she think she is with all that cheese and garlic?? Adjust accordingly and trust that you'll still end up with a tray of killer meatballs.
Without further adieu...
- 2 cups fresh sourdough breadcrumbs, gently packed (about 4 large slices, crusts removed and torn into small pieces)
- ⅔ cup milk (I used whole milk, but any will do)
- 1-½ lbs mixture of ground beef, veal and/or pork
- 1-½ cups finely ground Parmesan cheese (use a food processor or powerful blender and pulse until cheese resembles coarse breadcrumbs)
- 3 large eggs
- ⅔ cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2-3 500 ml containers Fresh Tomato & Basil Sauce
So, now that you have this tray of saucy meatballs, all that's left to do is decide how to serve them. Straight up is always an excellent option, but here are the other brilliant suggestions I was telling you about:
Shape the meatballs to about 2" in diameter, cover with sauce and bake for 30 minutes before tucking each one into a buttery, freshly-baked slider bun. Perfect for casual gatherings and 100% kid-friendly.
Meatballs with Garlic-Rubbed Toast and Massaged Kale Caesar
Baking and serving the meatballs in a cast iron skillet lends a casual "bistro-ish" vibe, and the side of garlic toast means you can go lighter on the carbs if you wish. To make the salad, simply put your prepped and chopped kale into a large bowl and drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with a good pinch of flaky or coarse sea salt and literally massage the kale until glossy and softened. Toss with your favourite Caesar dressing and serve topped with crispy bread crumbs or crumbled croutons for that extra crunch.
Meatballs with Creamy Parmesan Polenta
A pretty swanky switch up from the usual pasta pairing and one that's happily enjoyed by the entire family. Prepare the extra Parmesan cheese in addition to the amount called for in the meatball recipe, and while the meatballs are baking, you'll have exactly enough time to make this luscious polenta.
- 1 litre Intense Natural Chicken Stock (or a low-sodium, good quality stock)
- 1 cup corn grits/polenta (I use Bob's Red Mill)
- generous pinch of coarse sea salt
- ½ cup finely ground Parmesan cheese (use a food processor or powerful blender and pulse until cheese resembles coarse bread crumbs)
- 1 tbsp salted butter
Last but not least, Meatballs & Spaghetti.
Since the tomato sauce tends to reduce during the baking time, I sometimes reserve a portion of the sauce to toss with the hot pasta and a splash of reserved pasta water right before serving. Pile a generous tangle of lightly-sauced noodles on a plate then top with the baked meatballs. Finish with chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley and let the slurping commence!
I sincerely hope you love these meatballs as much as we do. I'd love to hear all about it if you make them, or have other brilliant serving ideas I haven't thought of yet.