Italian meatballs. Mine are the best. Period.

Italian-meatballsPretty aggressive headline, don’t you think? There are a couple of reasons for this. Reason number one is because that’s what the people around the table told me. Reason number two is that I want some reaction. I am fed up reading recipes for meatballs (and all sorts of other stuff) that just can’t be any good. In my research for this post, I came across one recipe that recommended boiling the meatballs in the sauce for three hours. Fine if you want to fire them out of a canon to sink a ship but not much use if you want to eat them. Get real. 

There is something wonderfully cathartic about writing. Once one get’s it down, there’s a release of the pent-up pressure and emotion that causes one to want to write in the first place. However, I’m not letting you meatball morons off the meat hook that easily. Now, here’s the ingredients picture:

The only thing missing from the picture is the breadcrumbs.

The only thing missing from the picture is the breadcrumbs.

A good meatball needs a good tomato sauce. For a great one, we need the following ingredients:

  • A few fresh tomatoes
  • Some sun-dried tomatoes
  • Some tomato purée
  • 2 tins of tomatoes
  • 250 ml of good Italian wine (I used a Ripasso).
  • 3 cloves fo garlic
  • 1 onion
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of chili flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Olive oil

A good tomato sauce needs a good meatball. For a great one, we need the following ingredients:

  • .5 kilo of each round beef mince and pork mince.
  • 2 handfuls of breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese 
  • Salt and black pepper

To get the (meat) ball rolling, I chop the three onions and sautée them in the pan until soft and translucent.

Onions frying

I soften the onions but not my attitude to poor meatball recipes.

Two thirds of the onions go into the mixer along with all the other meatball ingredients.

Italian meatballs ingredients

The ingredients are about to get a good beating. As should anybody with a poor meatball recipe.

Next I make the balls, avoiding the obvious joke. Another source of great debate is the right size for a meatball. I go for “just bigger than golf ball” size. On reflection, if you were to cook them for three hours, you could probably play a round or two with them.

Italian meatballs

I managed to make 29 bigger than golf ball sized meatballs. Plenty for the six who were sitting down.

Once done, they can go in the fridge while we turn our attention to the sauce. First thing to do is to chop the thyme.


I might use this picture as my cover picture on Facebook. Lovely colours.

Then add the remaining onions to a large sautée pan. Next, add the remaining sauce ingredients.

I had the grape tomatoes left over so they went in.

I had the grape tomatoes left over so they went in. The lemon juice adds an edge.

Three shots of the sauce construction are worth including.

The tinned tomatoes are the best substitute for the real thing. You can't get the real thing in Ireland.

The tinned tomatoes are the best substitute for the real thing. You can’t get the real thing in Ireland.

The wine adds a lot to the sauce. Don’t skimp on it.

Lovely Ripasso enriches the sauce. Don't skimp on it.

Lovely Ripasso enriches the sauce. Avoid the temptation to drink it instead.

Add a quarter litre of water to the  sauce and let it simmer for half an hour. Use that time to fry off the meatballs.

Italian meatballs

The kitchen starts to smell really good while these are browning.

Making the pasta for six people is pretty straightforward. The ingredients are 300 grammes of flour and three eggs. Fresh pasta makes a huge difference to the dish. I am making fettuccine. First add the eggs to the mixer. Beat them a bit.

Pasta in a mixer

Add the flour a little at a time until the pasta starts to form.

Change to a dough hook and beat for ten minutes or so.

Pasta in a mixer

The pasta nearly ready.

An unusual thing about this method for making excellent (Italian) pasta is that it’s a Dutch man who devised it and told me how to do it. Check out Stefan’s blog here.

Pasta resting

The pasta resting. This is the last shot of it being prepared.

Things got into a bit of a panic at this stage. Making pasta, meatballs and sauce for six really does not allow much opportunity to photograph the pasta rolling. I have done it in other posts and you can search the blog for ‘pasta’ to find them. Suffice to say that I needed plenty of help rolling and hanging the pasta on the backs of chairs and clothes dryers. Time to put the meatballs in the sauce.

Italian meatballs

The meatballs needed to be jiggled around a bit to get them all to fit into the pot.

They need to stay simmering there for just fifteen minutes.

Pasta in the pot.

Time for one shot of the pasta when it gets to the pot.

When everything is cooked through, I assemble the dish and serve to the hungry diners.

Italian meatballs

Italian meatballs don’t get much better than these. Perhaps you disagree?

I do accept that in every household up and down the length of Italy, there will be families huffing and puffing about why their recipe is better. Some may well be. They have the advantage of good fresh tomatoes. If you think you have a better recipe, let me know. I would love to hear how they can be improved. However, don’t bother if your recipe involves hours of boiling the meat. It makes no sense. No sense at all.

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Latest comments
  • Braggart 🙂 But you’ve convince me.

    • Only to get a reaction, Rosemary. I really don’t do the ego thing, unless it’s justified, of course.

  • hahaha Conor – welcome back. Have not seen you around for a little while!
    Typical irish – soooo modest, lol. Please tell the other 6 to shift a bit, I want to squeeze in and have some of those Meatballs over homemade fettucini. I never heard of boiling for 3 hours, I can only say “…anyone for golf?” Thanks Conor, another dish of yours which needs trying out. Btw, love the thyme photograph. I do miss my Thyme collection in little windowboxes in my english garden – this is luxury here.

    • You are welcome at the table any time. The thyme grows outside the back door now that the weather has got into the pluses. On the golf front, I think it was Oscar Wilde who described it as “a good walk ruined”.

  • My Italian grandmother and aunts would violently disagree that’s yours are better than theirs given that their recipe is basically the same.

    • Beautifully put Ed and great to hear from you. I hope all is good in your world.

  • Leaving the house now to shop for the necessary ingredients… will report back as to the results and if you can indeed claim that these are indeed, the best Italian meatballs.
    Lovely blog as always Conor.

    • Thanks for that. I look forward to the iPhone photos of the Italian dish matched by Australian Merlot…

  • Fun post, Conor, and great looking dish. Love the pouring shots. We don’t make meatballs but albondigas. 😉

    • Thanks Richard, I did the Spanish ones previously. I love both. I am planning to do one of the Chinese variations one of these days. More anon.

  • wow looks pretty good to me, and I am Italian…. wouldn’t mind to come to your virtual table and taste some… 🙂

    • All I need is a little notice and you are welcome.

  • Ah, you’re awesome Connor. I love meatballs, but… you know what? I’ve never actually made any myself. I’ve eaten plenty though and yours look like a meaty force to contend with. Love the step-by-step photographs. I’d very happily consume a great big dish of these, preferably with some earthy red wine.

    • The earthy red wine is essential. Give them a go. Easy and tasty.

  • How cow that looks good! And great shot of the thyme. Ken

    • Thanks Ken, we enjoyed them. A keeper, for sure.

  • Reblogged this on My Meals are on Wheels.

  • Great shots!

    The superlative “best meatballs” is always the controversial topic but this recipe you have here seems mighty tasty. Agreed that homemade pasta is far superior to dried. I’m a big advocate of undercooking the pasta by about a minute and then transferring it to the sauce to simmer for another minute. Makes the flavors just melt together! mmmm

    • That’s an excellent way to do it Steph. I only claim the ‘best’ title as everybody else who ever rolled a meatball seems to think that their recipe is best. We both know mine are….

  • How could I possibly argue with that! Another great read. Looks delicious, mind you. My only possible suggestion to throw out there (and only since you asked!) – possibly some roast and ground fennel? Bit of fan of it.

    • Great suggestion Phil,
      I think I added some to the Spanish ones I did last year. Mind you, I would have to check and that’s a hassle on this iPad. I reckon it would do no harm here either.

  • Those looking cracking. We should have a ball-off… can I say that here? My balls are fine specimens too.

    • You are testing me, if you get my drift Nick. A ball-off could be fun. Though, I know a song about that and Hitler, if you ever heard it?

      • Indeed I do, indeed I do. Unlike Hitler, I’d like to think we’d bring multiple balls to the party.

  • Delicious! Amazing! These pictures are utterly drool worthy, it’s a great recipe and the photos are incredible… Whoops, already said that, they’re that good! 🙂

    • Thanks Alice, the meal was easy with the pasta making in front of the hoard being the only pressure point.
      Best as ever,

  • Oh wow! That looks sensational Conor! Well done!

    • Thanks Anne. It was easy and tasty.

  • Nothing like having the courage of one’s own convictionc, but these actually sound very good [psst! my recipe is pretty similar . . . I must have looked over your shoulder!!] My childhood horror memory is of something called ‘Königsberger Klopse’: huge meatballs boiled for hours and then stuck into a smooth sardine sauce . . . yucksville to the max for a small kid who actually liked food 😀 !

    • Thanks Eha, they sound pretty gross. A smooth sardine sauce brings old engine oil to mind.

  • That’s quite the statement! They do look fabulous, but the only way to know if they’re better than mine is to try them! Will let you know when I do…

    • Lidia, I look forward to being proven very wrong.

  • Top quality stuff, beautiful shots too.


  • “Italian meatballs. Mine are the best. Period.” That’s fantastic! I don’t need to look for other recipe 😀
    “Italian meatballs don’t get much better than these. Perhaps you disagree?” Hmmm… Homemade pasta? Well, actually I can imagine to eat it with fresh, still warm, homemade bread, too 🙂

    • Great idea Wioletta. Beautiful to mop up that sauce.

  • Top notch photography skills. Amazing! The dish looks stunning. I am guessing the majority of the viewers wil have spaghetti meat balls tonight! Looks great!

    • Hi Nargess, Thanks for the kind comments and thanks for stopping by.

  • This post is jam-packed with great recipes, Conor, and your beautiful photography makes everything so appealing! You do realize, though, that I could not possibly agree with your premise, even if said jokingly, that these are the best meatballs. My Clan has eyes and ears everywhere and one doesn’t mess with meatballs. I fear I may have said too much already…

    • Thanks John, I fear the Irish Italian community may be ahead of you. Over on Facebook, a restaurant owner from nearby has already mentioned the horse’s head…

  • I for one firmly believe that if you don’t have the courage of your convictions, you really shouldn’t be having a food blog, and if you didn’t think yours were the best, why the hell would you be making them?

    Anyway, it’s making me hungry and it’s not even 9 am.

    • Yes, indeed. Thanks for that. However, if you were to read a few more of my posts, you would see that I often don’t reach the pinnacle of culinary greatness. Delighted to be having that effect and so early in the day!

  • Great post, Conor. Meat balls and pasta has got to go down as one of the great all year round dishes. Personally I use sage and oregano for a slightly stronger, earthier flavour, but then I wouldn’t have got the thyme chopping shot. Either way, very tasty.

    • Thanks Adam, I love how so many different favourites exist around the place. Variety truly is the spice of life.

  • I have to agree with John, that I shouldn’t say too much (or find myself turned into a meatball) but these do look pretty great. The sauce also looks top-notch, but again, I shouldn’t say how awesome the fresh grape tomatoes look or the wine. And I shouldn’t even think about how stellar the homemade pasta looks. Oh dear …

    • Thanks Tommy, your lack of comment is appreciated.

  • I make meatballs a la Goodfellas –
    (Skip the ad after 5 secs)
    Its the only way to make meatballs – you have to ‘slice the garlic so thin, it liquifies in the pan’. You use a razor blade to do it. I don’t see a razor blade….
    Mind you I tried it and now i am missing a finger tip.

    • Sadly, I’m not in prison with my buddies. I have to do this for a hungry hoard of unforgiving family. No time to shave the garlic. Though, it would be fun to recreate this v the Godfather scene. Doing this on my mobile so I can’t give a reference. It might be a fun challenge if you are willing to risk one more of your fingers?

      • Sounds like a good idea. Although my Italian-American accent sucks.

  • I’ll certainly not argue with you, as I make mine much the same way. Thank goodness you cook the onions down. I hate it when you bite into a meatball and taste raw onion. And you are right: that thyme shot is gorgeous!

    • Too kind Michelle. I don’t often boast about my stuff and you should not add fuel to the ego fire.

  • Hi Conor, I came here from Eva’s blog (Kitchen Inspirations), attracted by the promise of a Guinness stew, but these meatballs made me forget the recipe I was looking for! They look juicy, plump and as you say, certainly not overcooked (and they are big!). It’s an excellent idea to add dried tomatoes to your sauce. I will not even comment the home-made pasta because I’m too impressed to say anything. I can very well believe your meatballs are the best because my ragù bolognese is the best too 😉 (I should have maybe checked first if you haven’t posted it…).

    • Hi Sissi,
      A good spot from which to come. When I get some time (I have a full day today), I will nip over and have a look at your ragù bolognese. i am intrigued. The dried tomatoes add a nice depth to the already tomatoey mix.

  • Well crafted bravado. As an Italian American growing up on this stuff, I salute your methods and can certify them sound (not that you are craving certification mind you). But – you used fettuccine with meatballs. That’s pene or rigatoni territory! Love what I see so far. Carry on.

    • Thanks for the kind comments. I appreciate that I have strayed from some of the better worn paths with the pasta. Really, the bravado is more faux than ego. Just having a bit of fun and getting a reaction. Thanks for following.

  • I followed you here from the UK Food Blogger’s site. Stunning photos. You know, I have such a love/hate relationship with meatballs! I guess I just have to be in the meatball mood. 🙂 Also, I’d like to invite you to come link up with me at my link party! I’d love it if you could stop by & link up some of your recipes! Here’s the link:

    • Thanks for the very kind comments and generous offer. However, I am not a link party kind of guy so I will have to send my regrets.

  • Loved the way you bragged about your meatballs 🙂 Even Bobby Flay wouldn’t dare a throw-down with ya 🙂

  • Loved the way you bragged about those gorgeous meatballs 🙂 Even Bobby Flay wouldn’t dare a throw-down with ya 🙂

    • I suspect Bobby might be a bit better at this than me. He certainly has earned a lot more than I have!

  • Wow! Looks amazing! I will definitely try this recipe as I am a meatballs lover. I still think that the Romanian meatballs are the best!!! 🙂

    • Hi Chef,
      Welcome. You will have to share that recipe!

    • I love the difference Chef. Lots of garlic too. I approve.

  • I really enjoyed reading this. Many insightful approaches that add the key elements to a good cuisine. Take a look at my recipes collection on my blog and let me know what you think. Maybe we can exchange some recipes.

    • Thanks Domenick, I had a good snoop around your site. There are some lovely recipes there and some lovely photography. Great work.

  • Conor – I am making this recipe this weekend! Looks really good and I am looking forward to a great meatball!

    • Can’t wait to see this Barb.

      • Tonight’s fare is Five Spice Beef Casserole, tomorrow your meatballs, and Sunday…leftovers!

        • Hmmm…. 5 spice beef sounds pretty tasty indeed.

          • Will be posting the recipe!

  • Reblogged this on Life in the Foothills and commented:
    I was looking for something different to serve up and came across Conor’s Italian Meatballs! I made this dish over the weekend and I must say that this dish is very tasty! I like the rosemary used in the meatballs, and the sauce is superb! I am re-blogging his post so that you can try this one too!

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