Basic Italian Meatballs Recipe

Basic Italian Meatballs
Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 30 mins, plus about 40 mins cooking time | Makes: Makes 10 to 12 (1-1/2-inch) meatballs in sauce

This no-fry, no-bake meatball recipe is bare-bones: Just slip the raw meatballs into simmering tomato sauce. Take these basic ingredients and the technique and have fun with it—add pine nuts, finely diced prunes, and ricotta for a Sicilian version; use pecorino instead of Parmesan; or add mint, chives, or tarragon to the parsley mix. Serve with some bread or Godfather style, over pasta.

To see this recipe with illustrated steps, check out The Basics: How to Make Italian Meatballs in Sauce.

  • 3 (3/4-inch-thick) slices Italian bread, crust removed
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans tomato sauce or 7 cups homemade
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces ground beef, chilled
  • 8 ounces ground pork, chilled
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  1. Cut the bread into roughly 3/4-inch cubes (you should have about 3 cups) and place in a small bowl. Add just enough milk to cover the bread, pressing down with your hands so the cubes absorb the milk. Let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the tomato sauce and water in a large saucepan with a tightfitting lid. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower to a simmer. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the flour in a shallow bowl. Fill a small bowl with cold water; set both aside.
  4. Place the beef and pork in a large bowl. Mix together with your hands until evenly combined. Using your fingers, break the soaked bread into small pieces. Squeeze the excess milk from the bread back into the small bowl and add the bread to the meat mixture; discard the milk.
  5. Add the eggs, garlic, Parmesan, and parsley to the meat mixture. Season with a few large pinches of salt and a few small pinches of pepper. Using your hands, quickly mix until evenly combined. To taste for seasoning, form a small patty of the meat mixture and cook it in a small frying pan over medium heat until no longer pink inside. Taste the patty and add more salt and pepper to the meat mixture as needed. Repeat the frying test as needed.
  6. Form the mixture into 1-1/2-inch balls. If your hands stick to the meat, wet them in the bowl of water. Roll the meatballs in the reserved flour until they are lightly coated, then drop each meatball into the simmering sauce. Cover the saucepan and simmer without disturbing to let the meatballs set, about 5 minutes. Gently stir and continue to simmer, covered, until the meatballs are no longer pink inside, about 35 minutes more. Remove the lid and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes (for a thicker sauce, continue to simmer to the desired consistency).