Traditional Italian-American Meatball Recipe


Jump to Recipe if you don’t want to read my awesome story 😉

For your perusing pleasure: The Saga of the Best Italian-American Meatballs. Their inception, their fall, their re-discovery, their triumph. 

The flavor stands up on its own. I mean eat these babies right out of the fridge sans sauce all the time. But it really comes to life when nestled into a bubbling pot of amazing tomato sauce. They’re pretty much perfect.

So how did we get here? How did these amazing nuggets of greatness come to be?

In The Beginning 

One day there was this girl, who lived in Pacentro which is a glorious medieval mountain town in Abruzzi, Italy.

Lots of complicated shit happened and even though her mom owned a bunch of land, and they had everything they needed or wanted, she came to America as a teen with her stubborn father, and grew up here. Her name was Elsa DiCicco (nee Dichelles) and she was my Nana. 

Until she died, my Nana made the best goddamn meatballs on the planet. Fight me. 

When she passed, (maysherestinpeace) the crown of best-meatball-maker-in-the-world should have transferred from mother to daughter, as is tradition. But listen, folks, my mom doesn’t give two shits about making meatballs. She’s got better things to do like travel the world. Pffft. Therefore, the crown of best-meatball-maker-in-the-world came down to me. 

But I was only an active 20-something young professional! I was WAY TOO BUSY building a “career” to care about meatballs. And so I dropped that meatball festooned crown like a hot potato (except I’d never drop a hot potato. I’d eat it.) and went my merry way for years.

And thus the world did languish because my Nana’s recipe in her cookbook was nothing like what she’d taught me, so even the 20 family members and close friends who purchased said cookbook could not duplicate the sublime perfection of her actual meatballs. 

Until now. 

I have pulled the foodie sword from the stone of misspent young adulthood and started cooking years ago, and one of the things I’ve cooked the most is these meatballs. 

And after all those years of testing and improvement, (yeah i said it. I improved Nanna’s recipe) MY recipe, the NEW recipe for epic, blow-your-face-off-impress-your-friends-and-frienemys, take-them-to-a-party-and-be-the-star meatballs is ready for publication. 

I’ve tested it about a million times, and friends who can cook have tested it and succeeded, and friends who CAN’T cook have tested it and succeeded in making these juicy, flavorful, delightful, meaty meatballs.

These meatballs are better than yours. Hell, they are better than your Nana’s. Fight me. 

But before you take that first swing, make these meatballs and stuff them in your face. And stuff them in your family’s faces while you’re at it. And if you still wanna fight? I’m right here. 

But I bet you’ll be too happy with my meatballs to actually want to fight me. Instead, you’ll subscribe to my blog, follow me on Instagram, and comment on all my videos on Youtube.

Thats. How good. These Meatballs. Are. Full stop. So make them already.

Beef and Veal Italian Meatballs

Traditional Italian Meatballs

Recipe by Christina KefferCourse: MainCuisine: Italian, Italian-AmericanDifficulty: Easy


Prep Time


Cooking time



Delicious, tender, juicy meatballs with just a bit of char fro starting in the oven and a lovely texture from finishing in tomato sauce.


  • 1 pint prepared marinara sauce

  • 1 lb ground beef (80% lean)

  • 1 lb ground veal (substitute 90% lean ground pork if you must)

  • 2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

  • 2 Tsp ground black pepper

  • 2 Tbsp dried basil

  • 1/4 loosely packed cup minced fresh parsley (you can substitute dried if that’s all you have.)

  • 1 medium onion (about 150g) finely minced

  • 6 cloves garlic (about 15g) finely minced

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • 1 Tsp melted bacon grease (optional)

  • 1/2 packed cup (about 27g) grated parmesan

  • 1/4 cup (about 35g) unseasoned bread crumbs

  • 1/4 cup milk (whole, skim, whatever.)


  • Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. (Yeah, it’s hot. It’s supposed to be.)
  • In a bowl larger than the one you think you’ll need, gently combine ground beef and ground veal together. Don’t over-work the meat!
  • Moisten the bread crumbs with the milk and add to the meat.
  • Add salt, cayenne, black pepper, basil, parsley, onion, garlic, eggs, bacon greese, and parmesan. Combine without overworking the meat.*
  • (Optional) Place in the refrigerator to cool for half an hour. If your meat was very cold to begin with and you mixed things together quickly, you don’t need to do this.
  • Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
  • Scoop out a heaping tablespoon, or about 2oz of the meat mixture and roll it lightly between your palms. The meatball should just hold its shape, not be overworked. Place the meatballs no less than 1/4 inch away from each other on the parchment paper.
  • Place in a preheated oven for 10 minutes. The tops should be browned but the meatballs will still feel squishy when squeezed with tongs. Remove from oven and turn meatballs, then replace for 5 more minutes to brown the other side.
  • Remove and place meatballs in simmering marinara sauce for at least 10. minutes to finish cooking them. Alternatively, you can freeze them at this point and finish them off at a later date in sauce or in the oven. Because they aren’t quite cooked through, they’ll be juicy and delicious either way!

    If you don’t poach the meatballs in the sauce, leave them in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes, but be careful because at 500 degrees they’ll burn quickly.


  • Combine the meat and roll the balls gently 😉 It’s important not to overwork the meat. It should retain some of the grind texture. When the meatballs cook, they will become smaller and harder due to the protein and collagen in the meat tightening up. If the meat is already mashed, they’ll get tough and though they will be delicious, they will be dry and it’ll make you sad.
  • It’s important to keep the meat very cold while you’re mixing it and especially right before it goes in the oven, otherwise all the little strands of fat will melt and extrude out of the meat leaving behind a barren wasteland of dried meatball after cooking.

So there you have it. Delicious meaty balls. And if you want to find out why they’re Italian American meatballs check out my Meatball vs. Polpette post.

Leave a comment


  • Ryan Accetta

    September 13, 2020 , 13:56 / reply

    We were blessed to have a tray of these in marinara sauce sent over after our daughter was born, and they didn't last long! As a person who also makes homemade meatballs and sauce somewhat on the regular, I feel like I know my stuff. These beat mine, and any others I have tried, hands down. Flavorful and tender with just the right blend of meat to non in my opinion. Make them, you will not be sorry!
    • Zesty Pavlova

      September 16, 2020 , 13:16 / reply

      Thanks for the kudos, Ryan! Coming from a cook as amazing as you, it's high praise indeed! Glad you loved 'em! Thanks for the comment :D