Tuesday, April 8

Italian Meatballs

Delicious Homemade Meatballs
When you need to serve dinner to a crowd, spaghetti and meatballs is one of the easiest dishes that come to mind.  Why?  Because except for cooking the pasta, it’s a meal that can be made ahead or whipped up on short notice.

Add a tossed salad, bottle of wine and garlic bread and you have an Italian Dinner Party!
I have been making homemade meatballs for some time, well since discovering that commercially made are either bland or have a “frozen” taste, are really small and usually full of preservatives.    I wanted a hearty, tender, flavorful more natural meatball!
I have tried many recipes, all making the “typical” meatball and have also been experimenting by adding different spices, using bread crumb or crackers, with milk and without. 

I learned that for a really good meatball, you need a mixture of meats:  beef for meatiness and chew, sausage for flavor and texture and veal for tenderness.
Adding bread crumbs seems to make the meatball blander in my opinion but without filler the meatballs are a little too dense and tough.  Saltine crackers make the meatballs tender and enhance the flavor with out losing the meaty taste.

A mixture of veal, sausage and beef is the key to a great meatball

One of the best meatball epiphanies I've had was during one of our trips through Chicago a few years back.  We like to stop at small family owned diners or restaurants and on that trip we stopped for Italian.

I needed to go to the ladies room, but to get there it involved walking through the restaurant kitchen! There I saw a white haired older Italian man hand rolling meatballs.  I stopped to talk to him and question him on his meatball recipe.  He answered my questions but wouldn't divulge any recipe secrets. Drat! 
But as he finished rolling the meatballs he placed them on large stainless steel baking sheets, which he placed directly into the oven!  Let me tell you, I have spent long laborious hours over my stove slowing rolling and browning meatballs in skillets.  This meatball baking discovery was like the heavens opening up to me!  I have baked my meatballs ever since.

This recipe will make approximately 60 to 70 meatballs depending on size.  I use a ¼ cup of meat for each large meatball.

Homemade Italian Meatballs


3 lbs Ground Chuck
3 lbs Sausage
2 lbs ground Veal
4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons pepper
2 ½ Tablespoons oregano
¼ cup basil
2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/3 cup parsley
1 ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
42 saltine crackers (1 sleeve)
1 small can tomato paste (around 2 ½ Tablespoons)
½ cup water
5 – 6 eggs, slightly beaten


Crush crackers into small pieces.  Set aside.

Crush crackers

Mix all meat together in a large bowl. 
Add all the dry spices and seasonings together into the meat, mixing well. 

Mix in spices

If desired, use your fingers to mix thoroughly. 
Add Parmesan cheese and chopped garlic to meat mixture and mix well. 

Chop garlic

Add crushed crackers, mixing into meat mixture.
In a small bowl slightly beat eggs.  Add water and tomato paste to eggs and mix together.  

Mix eggs, tomato paste and water together

Add egg mixture to meat mixture.

Mix egg mixture into meat mixture

Roll meat mixture into desired size meatballs. Try to make meatballs all the same size.  Use about 3 tablespoons or a small measuring cup of meat for a large meatball.

Place meatballs on baking sheets as you roll them into a ball. 

Bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.  Dab meatballs on paper towels to remove excess grease then place meatballs on clean baking sheets or trays and place in the freezer, flash freezing them.  Once frozen, place meatballs in storage bags and store in freezer until ready to use.

Allow desired amount of meatballs to thaw before adding to heated sauce.

Makes about 5 dozen large meatballs.

Bon appétit,


Other Posts:

Growing your own garlic

Recipe for my Scrapbook Cookbook and the original  recipe with corrections

A tavola non si invecchia 
(You don’t age while seated for a meal.)

Uno non può pensare bene, amare bene, dormire bene, se non ha mangiato bene.
(Virginia Wolf:  One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one hasn’t eaten well.)

Detesto l’uomo che manda giù il suo cibo non sapendo che cosa mangia.
Dubito del suo gusto in cose più importanti.
(Charles Lamb:  I hate the man who eats without knowing what he’s eating,
I doubt his taste in more important things.)


Anonymous said...

Just finished reading your blog. Thanks for all the great info. Great recipes as well. Nice job Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hey, you're not the only one who has been browning them in a skillet, and why didn't I think of it either. Thanks for the great recipe and even better tip on baking them. Judy

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Glad the baking tip helps someone else. When I come across things like that I wonder "what was I thinking" haha

Diane said...

Thanks for the recipe! Can't wait to try it---in the oven! Always browned mine in the skillet, too.

Diane said...

Thanks for the yummy recipe! Can't wait to try it---in the oven! Yep, I also always browned meatballs in my skillet. This sounds so much easier.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks! Hope you love them too