Meatballs or polpettine are an Italian favorite with regional variations, but are not served with pasta in Italy as they are in the United States. Some may say that meatballs are an Italian American invention, yet Pellegrino Artusi, author of La Scienza in Cucina e L’Arte di Mangiar Bene, (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well) published in 1897, includes three recipes for meatballs, though none of these recipes include pasta. It wasn’t until Italians emigrated to the US and opened restaurants here that meatballs started to be served alongside (or on top of) pasta.
Meatballs can be made of many things, including bread, ricotta cheese, or a variety of ground meats. I learned from my Mother-In-Law that by cooking meatballs in the sauce, you create a much more tender, juicy meatball so I generally follow that rule.
These meatballs combine ground veal and ricotta cheese, are bound with a little breadcrumbs, grated cheese, and eggs, and are then slowly simmered in a spicy tomato sauce until tender and cooked through. You can serve these meatballs on top of Creamy Baked Parmesan Polenta as I have in the photos, on top of pasta, or simply as a main course served in a bowl alongside some good, crusty, Italian bread. I chose to use ground veal as I wanted a lighter meatball, but you can substitute ground beef if you prefer.
- 1 Pound Ground Veal
- 1/2 Cup Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
- 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
- 1/2 Cup Homemade Soft Breadcrumbs
- 1 Large Egg
- 1 Garlic Clove, Finely Minced
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Parsley
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1/3 Cup Finely Chopped Onions
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 1 (28 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
- In a bowl, mix together the meatball ingredients with your hands until blended.
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil until sizzling over medium heat, then add the onions and cook, stirring often until tender, about 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and continue to cook just until fragrant, another minute or two.
- Add the tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil and stir to mix.
- Season well with salt and pepper, and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low heat and cook for 15 minutes.
- Using damp hands, roll the meatballs into balls and carefully drop into the sauce.
- Continue to form all the meatball mixture into balls, and cook for 10 minutes.
- Carefully move the meatballs around with a spoon, and add a little additional water if the sauce is too thick.
- Cook the meatballs for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked through, then use meatballs and sauce as desired.