Learning how to make the perfect Italian meatballs, or polpette, is a life skill that any lover of Italian cuisine should master at some point. And while you will likely never be able to match the majesty of my mother’s meatball recipe, it’s still worth learning how to make these babies properly. They’re excellent for a simple weeknight dinner, to top your spaghetti with or as a side dish to bring to your next potluck.
Lucky for you, we’ve been gifted with five expert tips on creating perfect Italian meatballs at home from Eugenio Maiale, the chef and founder of (incredible) Italian restaurants A Tavola, Flour Eggs Water, and the new meatball-focused joint Palle (which translates to balls in Italian – lol).
Here’s what he had to say.
5 tips on how to make perfect Italian meatballs
Pick your produce carefully
As with any recipe, the ingredients you work with are going to make a huge difference when it comes to flavour. Choose your tools carefully here. Maiale explained that “the first step in creating your meatball, and arguably the most important, is deciding on the right meat for you. For an authentic Italian taste, I recommend a mix of ground meats like beef, pork and veal”.
“Source these from your local butcher to ensure you are getting the highest-quality, hormone-free meats for a really premium flavour,” he said.
Keep it simple
“Where a lot of people tend to go wrong with their meatballs, is trying to complicate it, adding unnecessary ingredients which can actually strip back the traditional taste,” Maiale shared.
Try not to jam too much in there. Focus on getting the basics right and you’ll end up with a delicious result.
“Palle’s ethos is based on the Maiale family recipe; basic but full of sustenance and love,” he said.
“Of course, your meatballs will need seasoning, but avoid saturating your mixture in redundant extras that will only minimise that classic flavour.”
Ensure your mixture remains cold and moist
Moving onto technique, Maiale highlighted that paying attention to the temperature and moisture in your mixture is key to nailing the perfect meatball recipe.
“This step is crucial and has the ability to take a good meatball to a perfect meatball,” he shared.
“Keeping your ingredients as cold as possible stops the fatty goodness keeps from melting and breaking down before you’re ready to cook and fry. Remember that fat equals flavour, so we want to make sure we maintain as much as possible in the preparation stage. Don’t skip on the moist ingredients like eggs and milk, which will help to ensure your finished product is nice and tender.”
Test, test, test
Practice makes perfect, amore. And you need to taste your way to success with any recipe – meatballs are no different.
“A true chef wouldn’t serve something that isn’t up to their standards, so utilise those tastebuds before plating up,” Maiale said.
“Ahead of cooking that first batch, I recommend you fry up a singular patty to see if the seasoning is to your liking. There is nothing worse than finishing your dish, only to wish you added more salt!”
Choose the right sauce – and be generous
A meatball’s best friend? Quality sauce.
“When it comes to plating up, avoid bland, dry meatballs by dousing them in your favourite sauce. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant, my favourite is my mum, Maria’s, classic tomato sugo. A juicy, flavoursome meatball pairs the best with a classic Italian red sauce made fresh to really enhance (but not drown out) the final taste,” Maiale stressed.
So, we’d recommend you ensure you have your sauce recipe down to a fine art before you start making meatballs on the regular.
Combining all these tips should equip you with a pretty strong footing to make your way towards becoming a meatball-making pro. But, if you’re still unsure, you can always check out how the team at Palle do it the next time you’re feeling a little hungry in Sydney.