Authentic Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Just about anywhere you go in Italy, you’ll find meatballs (polpette di carne)! And just about anywhere you go, you’ll find a different recipe for them. However, despite local variations, meatballs across the country of Italy mostly share a few key ingredients in common. Here, we offer an Italian Grandma’s best recipe for authentic Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce.

Grandma’s secret ingredient? Potatoes! A bit of potato in these authentic Italian meatballs serves the same purpose as softened bread crumbs often do. It makes them extra tender!

Fun Fact: Meatballs are rarely eaten on spaghetti in Italy. They are eaten alone!

Watch the Video Recipe!

Learn how to make an authentic Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Italian Grandma Margherita in this video recipe—filmed in Italy!

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How to Make Authentic Italian Meatballs: Tips

In Italy, these these meatballs are called Polpette di Carne al Sugo. In this recipe, we’ll show you how to fry the meatballs just like Grandma makes them. Below are some tips to help you get the authentic Italian meatballs experience!

Meatballs… and Spaghetti?

Despite traditions abroad, Italians in Italy rarely eat pasta served with meatballs. There is however one regional dish that features tiny meatballs serve with pasta. So, to enjoy these meatballs like an Italian—eat them alone!

Best flavor? Make them the day before!

Mix the meatball ingredients 8-24 hours before you plan to cook and serve. This gives the meatballs time to develop flavor.

Choose San Marzano tomato products.

Always look for tomato products made from San Marzano tomatoes for making the meatball sauce. San Marzano tomatoes come from Italy and are world-renowned for their flavor. 

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Authentic Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Authentic Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Just about anywhere you go in Italy, you'll find Meatballs ('polpette')! And just about anywhere you go, you'll find a different recipe for them. However, despite local variations, meatballs across the country of Italy mostly share a few key ingredients in common. We are partial to our Italian Grandma recipe, served in a quick tomato sauce. 
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 people
Calories 675 kcal


Meatball Mix

  • 4 medium potatoes yellow
  • 7 oz ground pork lean + fatty cuts
  • 11 oz ground beef
  • 3 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 tbsp flatleaf parsley minced
  • ½ tsp fine salt or to taste
  • ½ tsp black pepper or to taste
  • ½ clove garlic fresh, minced
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg or to taste
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Breading and Frying

  • 2 ½ cups breadcrumbs fine, unseasoned
  • peanut oil or frying oil of your choice

Tomato Sauce

  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes or purée or a mix
  • 2 cloves garlic fresh
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • ¼ tsp powdered red chili pepper OPTIONAL; or to taste
  • 4 tbsp olive oil


Make the Meatball Mix

  • Boil, peel and mash the yellow potatoes. Mix in 1 Tbs of olive oil and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together: pork, beef, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, parsley, salt, black pepper, minced garlic and nutmeg.
  • Beat one whole egg and add to the mix.
  • Add the mashed potatoes. Mix all ingredients thoroughly with a spoon or your hands.
  • Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Even better? Let them rest for 8-24 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Make the Sauce

  • Add several tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic, and tomato pulp or purée to a medium pot.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce heat. Add salt, red chili pepper and fresh basil to taste.
  • Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Remove the cloves of garlic from the sauce after the simmer.

Form and Fry the Meatballs

  • Form meatballs into 20-22 round balls. Coat each ball with fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add a high-heat oil (like peanut) to a skillet (about 2 inches or 5 cm high). Heat oil to around 355° F – 375° F (180° C – 190° C).
  • Fry the meatballs in batches. When the bottom of the meatballs brown, flip and continue frying until golden brown.
  • When you think the batch is done, remove one meatball and cut open to inspect. Meat should NOT be pink inside. When meatballs are finished frying, transfer to a surface covered with paper towels.

Simmer Meatballs

  • Bring tomato sauce to simmer. Add meatballs to the sauce. Simmer meatballs in sauce for 30 minutes and serve!



Sodium: 1199mgCalcium: 198mgVitamin C: 43mgVitamin A: 462IUSugar: 10gFiber: 8gPotassium: 1336mgCholesterol: 90mgCalories: 675kcalTrans Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 10gFat: 33gProtein: 28gCarbohydrates: 68gIron: 7mg
Keyword grandma cooking
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2 thoughts on “Authentic Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce”

    • Hi Sue – Bread crumbs are used only in the breading. In this recipe, the potatoes impart the softness that sometimes bread crumbs do in other recipes. Hope that helps!


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