The one thing that sets this meatball recipe apart from others? Soak sandwich bread with grated onion. The bread puffs up when cooked, making these meatballs extra soft and juicy. Plus it adds extra savoury flavour without the need to fry onion separately.
Italian Meatball recipe!
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:
“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, 2018
“… 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 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 – grate 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.
Tip: Baking option for meatball recipes
Any of my Meatball recipes can be baked. It’s healthier and they stay nice and round, though they are not quite as juicy as pan frying (sear = trapped juices).
To bake meatballs, preferably use a rack placed on a tray – helps keep the base more round – then just spray both the rack and the meatballs generously with oil and bake at 200C/400F for 20 minutes.
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
MORE CLASSICS WE’LL LOVE FOREVER
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
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Italian Meatballs (Extra Soft and Juicy!)
- 1 lightly packed cup of diced white sandwich bread , crusts removed (Note 1 for SUB)
- 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 (Tomato Puree in US/CAN - 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
- 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 and disintegrates. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients (5 min or so).
- Add all the remaining Meatball ingredients. Use 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.
Cooking & Sauce:
- 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 parmesan and parsley if using.
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 get a round: 8 more meatball recipes
LIFE OF DOZER
Bush walk. In hunt of something stinky to roll in – always.
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