5 Best Polpette Recipes (Meatball Recipes)

Ah the polpette (meatball) – nothing embodies Italian cuisine quite like it! Delicious, simple, and versatile, the polpette / meatball is a small ball made primarily of ground meat and other elements like bread, eggs, cheese, and seasoning. The polpette is so good it can be eaten completely by itself or with a sauce, but can also literally be added to almost any meal. How many other foods do you know of that can be added to pasta, pizza, and even a sub / sandwich? It can take on any flavor profile, and can even be made a multitude of ways – fried, in the oven, in a crock pot, etc.

While the origin of the meatball is still heavily disputed (some believe Persia or China), I think we can all agree that Italy heavily popularized it. Since we love all variations that meatballs come in, we decided to make a complete list of our favorite recipes including both Italian and Italian-inspired versions. Not only did we want to share our favorite meatball recipes, but we also wanted to share some of our favorite recipes that use meatballs in them.

1. Traditional Italian Polpette al Forno

Courtesy of Allrecipes

For a straight-forward traditional version, we love this very easy and simple recipe. While you can use different meat ratios, this one recommends a 50/50 beef and pork mixture with a 80% lean vs 20% fat ratio. This meat mixture, coupled with a panade (starch soaked in liquid) of bread crumbs soaked in milk, provides this meatball with a perfect and moist texture. Plus, we love that this recipe is al forno (in the oven) to avoid the pan-frying mess altogether. They can be eaten alone or with a salad, or even tossed into a sauce of your choosing!

  • ⅓ cup plain bread crumbs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 large eggs eggs
  • ¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Get the full recipe and directions from Allrecipes

2. Polpette Neopaletana

Courtesy of Food Network

For a perfect Neopalitan-style meatball in sauce, this is our favorite go-to recipe. It’s also a 50/50 beef and pork mix like the last recipe, but the bigger bread pieces for the panade make the meatballs bind together better. We also love that a little piece of mozzarella is placed in the middle of the meatball to give it added moisture and flavor. While this version does require pan frying, adding the simple tomato sauce more than makes up for it.


  • 2 slices stale white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 9 ounces minced beef and pork, equal amounts
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • 2 ounces pecorino, grated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 buffalo mozzarella, drained and chopped into little pieces
  • Unseasoned bread crumbs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying


  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 (12-ounce) tins peeled cherry tomatoes

Get the full recipe and directions from Food Network

3. Grandma’s Italian Meatballs

Courtesy of Jessica Gavin

If you’re looking for a meatball recipe where tradition meets food science, you’re going to want to check out this version. What started as a wife’s vow to her husband, has evolved into a lot of love and energy put into keeping this family recipe as close to the original as possible. Honestly the best recipes come from a place of love, and this recipe definitely shows that.

As mentioned, this recipe has a lot of food science research behind it which is why we love the texture and flavors so much. It recommends the following:

  • Forgoing the panade step (soaking the bread crumbs in a liquid) since enough juices will come out of the meat and will get soaked up in the bread crumbs.
  • Broiling the meatballs in the oven before simmering them in the tomato sauce. This initiates the Maillard reaction which basically yields an amazing flavor profile by browning the meat beforehand.
  • Creating the right texture by perfecting the meat to bread ratio.
  • Enhancing the meatball’s flavor by putting ingredients rich in glutamates (like tomatoes, onions, and garlic).

Tomato Sauce

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup yellow onions, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 cups crushed canned tomatoes, Cento Brand or San Marzano tomatoes
  • 6 ounces tomato paste, use less if a thinner consistency is desired
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, add more to taste

Grandma’s Meatballs

  • 2 pounds ground beef, 80% lean meat to 20% fat
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ cup yellow onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, Italian style or plain
  • fresh basil, for garnish

Get the full recipe and directions from Jessica Gavin

Courtesy of Jessica Gavin

4. Polpette in Spicy al Sugo (Spicy Tomato Sauce)

Courtesy of FoodandWine.com

Want your polpette al sugo (in sauce) with a little bit of a kick? We love this fiery rendition of the classic meatball, which uses veal and sweet Italian sausage for a really tasty flavor depth. Making these for someone who doesn’t like spicy? No worries! Since the heat comes from the crushed red pepper in the sauce, you can make 2 versions of the sauce if needed.

  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups prepared tomato sauce
  • Large pinch of crushed red pepper

Get the full recipe and directions from FoodandWine.com

5. Rigatoni con Polpette and Arrabbiata Sauce

Courtesy of JoCooks

If you want a meatball dish that’s really spicy then you’re going to love this one made with arrabbiata sauce. If you don’t know what arrabbiata sauce is, we’re here to tell you that ‘arrabbiata’ means ‘angry’ in Italian (aka it’s really spicy). This sauce (made with crushed tomatoes, onions, garlic, hot sauce, and an entire cup of red wine) is so good, that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

We also love that this recipe explains why we’re using the ingredients we’re using. More fat in the meat and the use of panko-style breadcrumbs means a juicier meatball. Dried oregano in the sauce since it doesn’t burn as well as other herbs. It also recommends Merlot as the best wine for this, and you can even swap out the wine for low-sodium broth if you prefer to go alcohol free.


  • Ground beef and pork – Use lean or regular beef, any kind you’d like, though the more fat in the meat the juicier your meatballs will be. You can substitute the pork for uncooked sausage out of the casing.
  • Egg – You’ll need 2 large eggs as the binding agent in the meatballs.
  • Spices – Garlic and onion powder.
  • Herbs – Dried dill, basil, and oregano. Dried herbs are concentrated flavor so if using fresh keep in mind that 1 tablespoon fresh equals 1 teaspoon dried.
  • Seasoning – Salt and pepper.
  • Breadcrumbs – Any kind you like, I prefer to use panko as it results in a way juicier meatball.


  • Olive oil – We want something nice and neutral tasting to saute our onion in.
  • Onion – We want something like white or yellow onion, it has a mild flavor and cooks down well.
  • Garlic – Use as much or little as you like.
  • Seasoning – Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Tomatoes – 1 full can of  crushed tomatoes.
  • Herbs – Dried oregano because it won’t burn as it cooks down in our sauce and fresh basil to be roughly chopped up. If fresh is all you have on hand just keep in mind that 1 teaspoon dried equals 1 tablespoon fresh.
  • Broth – Low sodium to control the salt content of our dish. This will pack some more flavor into our pasta.
  • Wine – A rich red wine like merlot is perfect for this red sauce.
  • Spice – Use some of whatever hot sauce happens to be your favorite as well as some red pepper flakes.
  • Seasoning – Salt and pepper.

Get the full recipe and directions from JoCooks

Whether you love meatballs in your pasta, or meatballs by themselves, we hope you found a recipe that your entire family would love. Please share with us what you like in your meatballs, and which of these recipes was your favorite.

If you liked this polpette and meatball recipe round up, you’ll also probably like our best brodo recipes post.


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