These are the Best Italian Meatballs – seriously. I’ve been making these meatballs for a cancer patient the last couple of weeks, and they are the most requested item. There’s nothing magical about the recipe at first glance, but it works incredibly well and the end result is tender, moist meatballs in a delicious tomato sauce.
Spaghetti and Meatballs is a favorite meal in many households. Although I didn’t grow up eating it, I’ve made it many times for my kids when they were growing up. Recently, I was asked to make meatballs for a young cancer patient. She’s on a low-microbial/neutropenic diet so I take special care in preparing her meals and packaging them.
These Italian meatballs have been such a hit that she has requested them on almost a weekly basis.
Why These Are The Best Italian Meatballs
What makes these these the best Italian meatballs you might ask. There are several key reasons this recipe works. Each ingredient plays an important role in creating the ultimate tender meatball, and a few extra steps ensure a flavorful sauce.
- A combination of ground pork and ground beef improves the flavor of these meatballs; also, the extra richness of pork makes these meatballs moist and tender
- Eggs and panko breadcrumbs bind the meatball mixture together. I used panko instead of regular dry breadcrumbs because I discovered that most dry breadcrumbs contain sesame seeds (the person I was cooking for has a sesame allergy)
- Parmesan cheese adds delicious umami flavor
- Parsley adds extra moisture and some pretty green color to the meatballs
- Coating the meatballs with a dusting of flour helps develop a nice brown crust on the meatballs and thickens the tomato sauce. This brown crust adds an extra layer of flavor to the sauce.
- Simmering the meatballs in the tomato sauce lets the flavor of the meatballs permeate the sauce
How To Freeze Italian Meatballs and Sauce
I’ve been making a batch of these Italian meatballs each week and freezing them in individual freezer bags. The best way to freeze them is to let the pot of meatballs and sauce cool down for about an hour. Then I refrigerate the covered pot until the meatballs are cold (usually overnight).
Once the meatballs are chilled, I scoop 4-5 meatballs and some sauce into quart size freezer bags. To make things easier and less messy, I’ve been using a food storage bag holder.
I squeeze as much air out as possible and seal the bag, then lay it flat on a cookie sheet. Once all the bags are filled, I freeze the entire tray of meatballs.
Voila – now you have individual servings of meatballs that can be taken out whenever you feel like having meatballs for dinner. Of course, if you are making a batch for your entire family, you can freeze all of the meatballs in a gallon size bag.
Best Italian Meatballs
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup organic onion finely chopped
- 2 28 ounce cans organic Italian plum tomatoes pureed in food processor
- 1 15 ounce can organic tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- sea salt
- black pepper
- 1/2 pound organic ground pork
- 1/2 pound grass-fed ground beef
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1/4 cup parsley minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- all purpose flour to coat meatballs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add pureed tomatoes and tomato sauce, along with red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook on low, covered, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make meatballs.
In a large mixing bowl, combine pork, beef, panko, Parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
Form meatballs. (I use food-safe gloves to mix everything together and form the meatballs). Lightly coat meatballs with flour.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large skillet. Place meatballs in pan, making sure meatballs do not touch each other. Brown on all sides.
Drain meatballs and add to tomato sauce. Cook meatballs in sauce for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4-1/2 cup water if necessary to loosen up sauce.
Adapted from Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
. To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs and cornstarch to coat the meatballs.