I Re-created My Grandma’s Secret Meatball Recipe

My Italian grandmother is famous for her meatball recipe. But would I be able to re-create the masterpiece? I gave myself a lazy Sunday afternoon to try it out!

Every summer our family would make our way south to visit my grandparents in Florida. We’d spend the mornings adventuring and playing in the pool. In the afternoon my sisters and I, fresh from the pool, would tiptoe into our grandma’s kitchen and watch the magic of her meatball recipe unfold.

My grandma has perfected just about every recipe her own mother handed down, but our all-time favorite was her meatballs. I can remember countless Sunday dinners, starving from a long day of swimming and playing, when the entire table was quiet as we spooned as many meatballs onto our plates as possible. I didn’t know if I’d be able to re-create that family meal magic, but I had to try, and this is how it went…

My Grandma’s Secret Recipe for Meatballs

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 to 2 slices of day-old bread
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Carrie Madormo for Taste of Home

Initial Thoughts

Is this actually my grandmother’s recipe? It’s tough to say, as she never measured any of her ingredients in all the years I watched her cook. The notes I wrote down while attempting to capture this recipe include quite a few pinches of this and dashes of that. Carefully measuring each ingredient was not how my grandma rolled in the kitchen. Fortunately, I like to think that I take after my grandma and rarely measure as I cook. That tactic doesn’t help me in the baking department, but it’s the only way to make these meatballs.

Mix the Base

One of my favorite things about making these meatballs is that they are so simple. Start by preparing your ingredients to make the process even quicker. Tear your slices of bread into small pieces. Feel free to use any bread you like; I usually opt for a hearty Italian loaf. Place the ground beef and bread in a medium bowl and soak both in water. I let this mixture sit while I chopped the remaining ingredients.

I then chopped the garlic, onion, and fresh parsley and placed them in a large mixing bowl. I cracked both eggs into the bowl and whisked the ingredients together with the salt, pepper and Parmesan. When it was time to add the ground beef mixture, it was pretty messy. I scooped it into my large mixing bowl with my hands, then drained the remaining water.

Here are more meatball-making pointers from Grandma.

Carrie Madormo for Taste of Home

Cook Your Meatballs

Once I had my meat mixture ready, I placed it in the refrigerator for about a half hour. This helps the meatballs hold their shape when you roll them. If I were my grandma, I would have used that 30 minutes to whip up a pot of homemade sauce and even a loaf of fresh bread. Instead, I listened to a podcast and ate chips.

I opted for store-bought sauce this time and placed it in a large pot over medium heat on the stove. (Here are a bunch of ways to doctor it up if you so choose.) You can cook these meatballs in the oven, but simmering them right in the sauce helps them soak up even more flavor and moisture. While the sauce was simmering, I formed about 20 meatballs with my hands and gently dropped them into the sauce. I reduced the heat to low and let the meatballs cook for 40 minutes.

Carrie Madormo for Taste of Home

The Outcome

Thank you, Grandma! Naturally, they didn’t taste exactly like hers, but these meatballs are bursting with juicy, savory flavor. They’re also incredibly tender and go well with any type of pasta or crusty bread you like. Fresh ingredients like garlic and parsley really make the flavor pop while saving you a trip down the spice aisle during your grocery trip. The Parmesan also comes through in each bite.

You probably won’t have leftovers since everyone will be reaching for seconds, but in case you do, the meatballs freeze well. Place them in a sealed container or large Ziploc bag with tomato sauce. In the mood for Italian now? We’ve rounded up all of our favorites from lasagna to pizza bread!

1 / 100

Popular Videos

Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.