Classic Italian-American Meatballs

Classic Italian-American Meatballs

This is an old-school, standard recipe for meatballs. While I can’t promise they’ll taste exactly like Nonna’s, I can say that this recipe makes reliably moist, tender, flavorful meatballs that are perfect for topping with sauce and serving over spaghetti- they’re also great in a meatball sub. A mixture of 1/3 pound each of ground beef, veal, and pork makes the best tasting meatballs. You can buy this blend of ground meat in most supermarkets, it’s typically labelled as “meatloaf mix” or “Italian meat mix”. If you don’t see any in the meat department case, ask your butcher to grind some up for you.


  • 1 lb. ground veal, pork, and beef
  • 1 medium onion, halved and minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 oz. finely grated Parmesan, measured by weight
  • 1/2 C. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 C. fresh Italian sweet basil, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. dry red wine
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pieces of dark wheat bread with crust
  • milk
  • 1/2 C. Italian bread crumbs
  • all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil


Place meat in a large bowl. Add herbs, egg, garlic, onion, tomato paste, pepper, salt, wine, and Parmesan to bowl.

Soak bread in milk, and squeeze out as much milk as possible. The bread should be a gooey consistency. Break the bread up into the bowl, and work into the meat mixture. Gradually add the breadcrumbs until the meat mixture begins to bind together; you should be able to form the mixture into one big, relatively firm meatball. *Note: it will help if you refrigerate the meat before mixing it in the bowl, this will help keep the meatballs firm while you browning them.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Form the meat mixture into 1″ to 1-1/2″ balls. Roll them around in your hand and try to make them as firm as possible. You may want to start out with smaller 1″ balls the first time you make them, as they cook faster and don’t fall apart as easily. Lightly roll the meatballs in floor, coating all side evenly, and begin cooking.

The skillet should be very hot at this point; heat should be on medium high to high, until the oil begins to smoke just a bit (the heat needs to be high enough to cook the meat balls completely through). Sear the meat to a dark brown on all sides, being careful with the meatballs at first to keep them from falling apart. To prevent the meatballs from breaking up in the skillet or sticking, you may want to try using two flat wooden spoons to roll the balls around while browning.

When the meatballs are well browned, transfer directly from the frying skillet to sauce, or serve alone without sauce as an appetizer or main dish.