Here’s my grandfather’s famous meatball recipe that we made just about every weekend growing up as part of our Sunday pasta and meat sauce dinner. I loved hand-blending the ground meat mixture and pan frying a few patties first to be sure the seasoning was just right before rolling out the meatballs for pan frying and baking….and also, eating at least a few fresh-from-the-oven meatballs before they were plunked into the red sauce to finish. I recently made a big batch with my sons on a snow day from school…it’s a great “guys thing” to do. Follow this recipe and you’ll be guaranteed light, moist and tender meatballs every time.
Pop’s Italian Meatballs
- Extra virgin olive oil – about 1/4 cup total
- 2 onions – chopped finely
- 4 gloves of garlic – minced
- Generous pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley….or, 1 heaping tablespoon dried.
- 1 lb ground beef – 80/20 blend is best
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/2 pound ground veal
- 2 eggs – beaten with splash of milk
- 3/4 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
- 3 slices white bread, crust removed – of inside of Italian loaf – soaked in milk
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
- Salt and cracked pepper- plenty for seasoning
Heat olive oil in large pan over medium- high heat and saute onion lightly for 4-5 minutes until just translucent.. Add garlic, crushed red pepper, chopped parsley and a generous sprinkling of salt and saute for 2 more minutes so flavors mingle but not until browned. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes or so.
Pour milk over white bread and let it soak as onion mixture cools. Combine ground beef, pork and veal in very large mixing bowl and add the cooled onion mixture, eggs, breadcrumbs, grated cheese and another generous sprinkling of salt and cracked pepper. Add soaked white bread mixture that’s been squeezed (this helps to keep the meatballs light and fluffy). Mix everything together by hand until well combined but don’t overwork ….this makes for tough meatballs. The mixture will be very moist, which is perfect.
Test the seasoning of the mix by making a small patty and cooking it in the pan used to cook the onions. If not perfect, adjust seasoning as needed….more salt is usually the missing ingredient at this point.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Shape the meatballs into desired size…or make batches of different sizes to satisfy everyone. Make nice round balls but don’t overwork. My grandfather used to make truly huge meatballs…about the size of a really big scoop of ice cream….so that’s what we prefer.
Coat saute pan with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides in batches to create a nice crust on the outside and to help seal in the juices. Move them to a baking sheet and finish in the oven for 15 -20 minutes. Serve straight from the oven with a nice sprinkling of grated cheese or add them to your finished red sauce to simmer for 10 minutes.