Classic Italian Meatballs

BLOG-10-AnnieChu-Headshot 2Annie Chu is the writer and photographer behind Chu on This®, a culinary travel publication highlighting things done well, near and far. When she’s not cooking or eating, Annie also acts as lawyer to clients in the food industry.

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For most of my life, I didn’t have much of a relationship with Italian food other than the knowledge that it was an integral part of North American dining culture. Pizza was pizza and pasta was pasta and there was really nothing extraordinary about it. But then, I went to Italy.

In Rome and Florence, I had some eye-opening culinary experiences. However, my real “ah ha” moment came when my friend Giulia invited me into her mother’s Italian kitchen. Giulia’s family lives in Mestre, otherwise known as the mainland of Venice. It was here that I experienced what real espresso, hazelnut gelato, spring pea risotto, and prosciutto tasted like. I soon learned that Italian food is all about putting simple Mediterranean ingredients together in a harmonious and respectful way, with a dash of love. I’ve carried this philosophy with me ever since.

I have spent many years since Italy experimenting with recipes that I am now proud to call my own. This classic Italian meatball is one of my favourite things to make because it is as easy as it is comforting. Serve it up with some bread (the sauce is great for dipping) or spaghetti and add a side salad, and you have yourself a very satisfying dinner. The best part? You really don’t need to measure these ingredients at all. As Giulia’s mother would say, “just put in an amount that feels right!”.


Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Serves: 4


For the meatballs

  • 1 lb of lean ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup of ricotta
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley (about ½ cup), chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 can crushed San Marzano or Roma tomatoes*
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley (about ½ cup), chopped
  • A few leaves of basil, chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

*If available, using fresh tomatoes is ideal. However, it’s not always possible and definitely not always worth the effort.

For the garnish

  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Finely chopped Italian parsley

Cooking Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Make the tomato sauce first. Combine all the ingredients for the tomato sauce together in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. After 5 minutes, reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes. Note: fresh tomatoes require more time.
  3. While the tomato sauce is simmering, put all the ingredients for the meatballs together in a large mixing bowl and mix gently with a spoon to incorporate.
  4. Once the ingredients are evenly distributed, put some olive oil on your hands and roll the mixture into balls. I find the best size is somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball.
  5. Carefully place each of the meatballs evenly into a greased ceramic baking dish and bake for 10 minutes or until the top of the meatball is lightly browned. Flip the meatballs over and bake for another 10 minutes. Finally, ladle the tomato sauce onto the meatballs, cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for a final 10 minutes or so.
  6. Serve hot.


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