Nonna’s Meatballs

I have vivid memories of walking down into the basement of my nonna’s house with the smell of meatballs in the air. Most Italians have two kitchens in their house, one for show and one for a place to fry all the food. It’s a hilarious concept now that I think about it, but it’s something I grew up with being the norm.

Anyways, back to my vivid memory… she’d always have a plate of hot, fresh meatballs covered with a paper towel ready for us to try when we came over. I used to love sneaking a couple before her pasta with gravy (red sauce) was ready, and they were always best while they were piping hot.


A couple of weeks ago when I set out to cook her meatballs, all I had was a list of ingredients to use, and nothing else, because of course she doesn’t have a recipe written down. Without exact measurements, or a step-by-step process, I was convinced this was going to be a total flop. How could I magically make these taste like my nonna’s if I didn’t even know how much meat or salt to use? I put my brave hat on and improvised, hoping they would turn out okay.


I immediately felt comforted after I placed the first meatball in the canola oil. That very familiar smell that filled my nonna’s house plenty of times started to fill mine. I placed the first couple of meatballs on a plate and covered them with a paper towel, just like my Nonna does, and of course,  couldn’t help but sneak a couple for myself. Let’s just say it was a success and I’m so glad I can share the recipe with all of you.


My favorite way to serve these meatballs is with pasta of course, but they’d be perfect as an appetizer, or in a meatball sandwich too! If you end up making them, don’t forget to tag your photos with #marinamakeseats.

Nonna’s Meatballs

Makes about 15 meatballs


  • 3/4 pound of ground beef
  • 1/2 pound of ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmigano reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beated
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley
  • Canola oil for frying


Place a large frying pan or dutch oven (I used our dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Fill the pan or pot with canola oil to cover about an inch up the sides. Let the oil reach 350 degrees. It should take about 10 minutes.

While the oil is heating up, mix all of the ingredients listed above in a large bowl with your hands. Don’t over mix because you don’t want the meat to get too tough. Roll the meat into small-medium sized balls (use a tablespoon to measure out portions).

Test the oil by placing one meatball in the pan. If it fizzles, the oil is hot enough. If not, wait for the meat to start to fizzle. Repeat this step with the rest of the meatballs (cook multiple at a time), and cook on all sides until dark brown.


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