Italian home-made meatballs: the healthy way

best italian meat balls recipes
There is no other day of the week, that I love as much as Sunday.

It’s the day when Marika does not have to go to the hospital (for work! of course) so she can make all her delicious Italian recipes and food. She usually wakes up early, goes on a bike ride and then in a couple of hours she is able to arrange a 5-course meal for the traditional Italian Sunday meal we have with the whole family.

When we were young our Grandmother used to cook the Sunday meal. Until a few months ago it was our Mother’s turn. Now it’s Marika’s (but I also help!).

Since we were very young, our family has always had meatballs with tomato sauce on Sunday. I and Marika would wake up with the smell of those fantastic meatballs slowly cooking in the tomato sauce. I think the first Italian word I learned to say was “polpette”.

I and Marika both learned cooking with our Grandmother. However, we all agree that Marika’s dishes taste exactly what our Nonna used to make. I really don’t know how she does! But it must be due to the fact that cooking is more than a passion for her….and passion and love are two ingredients who make the difference.

So today is Sunday….and Marika made these fantastic home-made meatballs with tomato sauce. You may say: everybody in Italy makes meatballs on a Sunday or… everybody knows how to make them. But I can tell you that they are really worth a post on our blog. They were incredibly good. And in fact they were all gone pretty soon. This is our family’s recipe.

Marika’s Sunday home-made meatballs


1 lb minced beef meat
1 whole egg
3 1/2 oz parmigiano reggiano cheese
3 1/2 oz durum wheat breadcrumbs
milk (as necessary)
1/2 tsp sea salt
good pinch nutmeg
pinch black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
6-7 fresh mint leaves
18 fl oz fresh tomato sauce with onion and basil

Before the preparation, there are a few secrets for this meatball recipe that our Grandmother taught us and we want to share with our readers.

First, at the butcher shop, make sure the piece of meat you choose is minced in front of you. Second, do not use powder breadcrumbs but use good quality stale bread. Third, moisten the bread with milk (not water).  Fourth add fresh herbs (parsley, mint or basil) as they give much more flavor. The last and most important thing, once you make the balls, let them rest (so they absorb all the flavors) for a few hours before cooking them in the tomato sauce. The “resting” part is key.


Put the minced meat in a bowl. Then add the egg and grated parmigiano cheese and start mixing with your hands.

In another plate, moisten the durum wheat bread with milk. Slowly add the moisten bread to the meat while mixing. Finally, add the chopped parsley, sea salt, black pepper, a good pinch of nutmeg and the mint leaves in small pieces.

The mint leaves add freshness and make the difference!

After you mix all the ingredients together, make some little balls with your hands. Put them on a tray and let them rest for at least one hour.

As always, Marika adds her healthy twist to all our family recipes. Therefore, she does not fry her meatballs before cooking them in the tomato sauce.

On the side prepare a fresh tomato sauce with basil. Slowly add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and cook them for about 40 minute-1 hour at low flame with the lid. Do not forget to stir them if necessary.

As always, enjoy them with your friends and family.

Do you have any traditional food your family makes on Sunday? What is your meatball recipe?

By | 2017-05-04T14:05:10+00:00 November 27th, 2011|Favorites, Fish & Meat, Recipes|6 Comments


  1. Stile Mediterraneo March 25, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Ciao Wendy! How nice to hear that your mother in Law has Puglian origins!
    Lots of people coming to Puglia are impressed with the fact that we don’t use as much garlic in our cuisine as usually people think of. We do use it but not too much and whether we use it, varies from family to family.
    For sure we use lots of other spices and herbs. For example it’s very typical to use parsley or basil in meatballs. We think there is no right way. It depends on what you like!

  2. Wendy DeMarzo March 25, 2011 at 2:30 am

    My husband’s family is from the Bari (Canneto) region. I finally learned my mother in law’s meatball recipe which is similar to yours. The difference is garlic, but no mint or nutmeg. Yours sounds delicious! I’ll try it!

  3. Stile Mediterraneo February 28, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    YES!! I’ll visit both wineries at the Vinitaly and olive oil producers at the SOL. I’ll send you an email with my travel plans…..

  4. Leonardo (Len) Jannaman February 28, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Cinzia — I will be in Verona in April for Vinitaly … will you be there?

  5. stile mediterraneo February 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Dear Len and Joan!
    First of all, we MISS YOU! when are you coming back to Puglia? we have some good bottle of wines waiting for you….

    We love the recipe you sent us. We never had meatballs made with spinach. But the combination sounds very yummy! we will definetely try! thank you so much for sharing it!

  6. Leonardo (Len) Jannaman February 28, 2011 at 1:40 am

    My favorite recipe is about as un-traditional Italian as you can get. This recipe comes from Alton Brown, famous chef. I wish, though, that I could eat ones my friends and teachers in Puglia, Cinzia and Marika, make.



    * 1/2 pound ground pork
    * 1/2 pound ground lamb
    * 1/2 pound ground round beef
    * 5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly
    * 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
    * 1 whole egg
    * 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
    * 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
    * 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    * 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    * 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    * 1/2 cup bread crumbs, divided


    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, lamb, ground round, spinach, cheese, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Use immediately or place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

    Place the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs into a small bowl. Using a scale, weigh meatballs into 1.5-ounce portions and place on a sheet pan. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds, roll in the bread crumbs and place the meatballs in individual, miniature muffin tin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

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