Test Kitchen Tips
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Taste 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.
Taste 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.
Don’t have time to make your own sauce? Here are our favorite store-bought brands.