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9 Things Grandma Never Told You About Making Meatballs from Scratch

Grandma was a pro at making meatballs from scratch. Here are some of her best-kept-secrets for getting them just right.

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Granddaughter cooking with her happy grandma, having fun together; Shutterstock ID 661584427; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOH Grandma's Meatball

If your Grandma was anything like mine, she was a fabulous cook. There was nothing better than the smell of homemade meatballs simmering in red sauce in her kitchen! I’ve rounded up some of Nonna’s best-kept secrets for making meatballs from scratch.

Just pair your meatballs with fresh spaghetti and warm Italian bread, and you’re all set for Sunday supper.

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Hands making meatballsbitt24/Shutterstock

Use a Mix of Beef and Pork

Sure, spices add a lot of flavor to meatballs, but it’s the fat in the meat that makes them so juicy. Use a 50/50 mix of beef and pork as your base, or try a blend of beef, pork and veal.

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Bread soaked in milk for making meatballs.Zapylaiev Kostiantyn/Shutterstock

Make Your Own Breadcrumbs

To make homemade breadcrumbs the way Nonna used to, soak leftover stale bread in milk for a few minutes. Remove the excess milk by squeezing the bread with your hands, then break up the bread into small pieces.

Here’s another easy way to make breadcrumbs at home.

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Making meatballs in a kitchenPolhansen/Shutterstock

Add Garlic and Herbs

Using fresh garlic will deliver flavor with a kick. Pair that with classic Italian herbs and spices like oregano, red pepper flakes and fresh parsley—and don’t forget the salt and pepper!

Grandma never measured; it was always a pinch of this and some of that, so experiment to find the perfect flavors.

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Gourmet Organic Parmesan Cheese on a BackgroundBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Use Cheese, Please

Another classic ingredient for Grandma’s Italian meatballs is cheese. Try using freshly grated Parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese to add flavor.

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Glass of milk on wooden backgroundshowcake/Shutterstock

Add Milk for Moisture

A little bit of milk will add moisture to your meatballs. (Many people think it’s the eggs that add the moisture, but their role is to bind the meat, breadcrumbs, cheese and herbs.)

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Pair of hand mixing raw ground beef mixture preparing to make fresh gourmet hamburgersTeri Virbickis/Shutterstock

Mix Ingredients by Hand

Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and use your hands. With clean hands, gently combine the ingredients, being careful not to overwork the meat. To prevent the mix from sticking as you form your meatballs, try lightly coating your hands with oil or water.

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Rows of raw homemade meatballs prepared for cooking on a trayElena Elisseeva/Shutterstock

Shape the Meatballs

The size of your meatballs depends on how you plan to serve them. For soups, you’ll want smaller, bite-sized meatballs. If they’re going to be served on top of spaghetti, try a medium-sized meatballs (about 1-1/2-inch rounds).

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MeatballsTaste of Home

Brown the Meatballs First

Yes, you can cook your meatballs by putting them directly in the sauce and letting them simmer for a good, long time. But browning them before they hit the sauce enhances the flavor and the texture. You can either brown them in batches on your stovetop or in the oven.

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Slow Cooker Spaghetti & MeatballsTaste of Home

Add Meatballs to Sauce

The secret to Grandma’s meatballs is time, patience and a good homemade sauce. The meatballs need to simmer low and slow for maximum flavor. In addition to having a delicious meal, your house will smell amazing.

Lauren Naru
Lauren Naru writes about gift guides, sales, and must-have items for the kitchen and home. She loves a good deal is and is always on the hunt for super-savings and products that solve cooking problems. In her spare time, you’ll find her creating custom cookies for friends and family. Lauren lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley region.