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The Low-Down on the Italian Meatball | Meatball Recipes and More

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Did you know that the iconic Italian plate of spaghetti and meatballs dish isn’t actually true to Italian tradition? In Italy, meatballs, known as polpette, are served a bit differently. Read on.

The Italian Meatball

In Italy, there is nothing humdrum or mundane about meatballs. In many culinary traditions—from North Africa to the Middle East and Asia—ground or crushed meat in the shape of balls or patties often yield the most exotic, unique and delicious tastes. So, when Italians make beef or veal meatballs, you can be sure some special ingredients are added to elevate them from “ordinary” status. Some of these additions include garlic, parsley, eggs, cheese, cured meats and béchamel sauce. Though the Italians’ fondness for polpette can’t rival the Americans’ love for hamburgers, it is certain that meatballs and their many variations must be included among the favorite recipes of Italian cuisine.

The classic Italian meatball is made with ground beef or veal. They can be fried, steamed or baked in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil. Although meatballs cooked in tomato sauce and served with pasta is likely what most Americans first imagine when they think of them, this meatball preparation is virtually nonexistent in Italy. In most regions, meatballs are just fried and eaten as is—enjoyed as a snack or served as a second course without any sauce.

Italian meatballs are often quite elaborate all on their own. Often, ingredients are added right to the raw ground meat to create a number of meatball variations (finely chopped mortadella  or salame, a cube of fontina cheese, béchamel sauce, to name a few). To complete the meal, meatballs are sometimes served with a greens salad, lightly sautéed vegetables or even French fries, patatine fritte in Italian. The fries are more of a kid thing, but we get it.

The Classic Meatball & Beyond

What’s your favorite meatball?

Sure, we all love the classic Italian-American meatball, the one served atop a twirl of pasta and sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano, but have you gotten creative with your homemade meatball recipes? There are so many ways to enjoy meatballs—from our Meatball Pizza to our Italian Meatball Sub with Sweet-and-Tangy Peppers. These meatball recipes are going to change the way you think about meatballs forever. We promise!

Our Favorite Meatball Recipes

A weeknight pasta bake that will have the whole family running to the dinner table. We promise.

Our Pizza Dough Kit makes this homemade pizza appetizer both easy and delicious. Serve it up with our Pomodoro Fresco Marinara Sauce.

This is no ordinary meatball sandwich. We kick it up a notch with our fiery arrabbiata, fragrant herbs and fresh mozzarella.

This vegetarian meatball option is as healthy as it is delicious, created in the traditional style and served up with our fresh tomato pasta sauce.

A classic cold-weather recipe taken to the next level with cheesy stuffed pasta… is there a better way to do chicken soup?

True to tradition, these meatballs are homemade and nonna-approved. Best served on top of a heaping plate of spaghetti.

Featuring the smoky, sweet sun-dried tomato and Romano cheese, this turkey meatball recipe is moist and full of Mediterranean flavor.

This larger-than-life meatball is sort of like an Italian homage to meatloaf… but if you topped it with tangy tomato marinara and gooey melted cheese. Ready to fall in love?

A classic meatball sub on a crusty Italian roll with a sweet-and-tangy-pepper upgrade. The flavors are out of this world.

No pasta required for this cheesy meatball entrée. We recommend serving it up with slices of crusty Italian bread to wipe the plate clean.

There’s always an occasion for a classic and this recipe will have you nostalgic for the good ol’ days. Hope you’re hungry!

You’ve never had an appetizer like this. We skewer meatballs with mini fresh mozzarella balls are serve it up with marinara for the perfect party food.

Loaded with feta cheese, briny Greek olives and fresh herbs, this Greek-inspired meatball recipe is one for your recipe box.

These vegetarian zucchini meatballs get their incredible flavor from garlic, basil pesto and a golden deep-fried goodness… you won’t even miss the meat.

Two classics in one, this stuffed-pepper-style meatball recipe features our Peppers and Sauce, making it an easy, must-try weeknight dinner.

Need some more inspiration? Check our gallery of recipes!