Italian Fried meatballs are soft and crispy balls, made with a selection of fine meats ranging from beef, veal to chicken, turkey and pork.
Meatballs recipes have their roots in Italian cucina povera, as it was a smart way to repurpose leftovers: for example the meat leftover from the day before, of a roast chicken, rather than a turkey, mixed with stale bread, milk, eggs.
Therefore, authentic Fried Italian meatballs recipe is made partly with meat leftovers, partly with ground beef (if you have no meat leftovers, you can use ground beef only or mix it with minced chicken, turkey or pork for the same weight), stale bread soaked in milk, Grana Padano or Parmigiano cheese, parsley and eggs.
In meatballs recipes, eggs are necessary: they bind meat, bread, cheese and herbs so that, once cooked, meatballs turn out soft and airy.
One of the optional ingredients that you will find below is mortadella ham. It’s a typical salami of northern Italy, made with pork. You can replace it with cooked ham or, in case of difficulty in finding the ingredients, do without it.
So now here is Fried Italian meatballs recipe from scratch! You can eat them hot, right off the pan, or warm, or even cold as an appetizer (in this case just be sure to make their shape a little bit smaller).
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Italian Fried Meatballs Recipe
- Prep Time: 20 min
- Cook Time: 10 min
- Servings: 8
- 300 g (about 10 oz) of meat leftovers or minced pork
- 300 g (about 10 oz) of ground beef
- 100 g (3,50 oz) of stale bread
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 50 g (1,7 oz) of Mortadella ham(optional)
- 1 medium egg
- fine salt and black pepper
- 1 lemon zest
- a bunch of parsley
- 1 small garlic clove
- 150 gr (about 5 oz) of Grana Padano cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
Step 1) – The authentic recipe of Italian fried meatballs is made with roast or boiled meat leftovers. If you do not have meat leftovers and mortadella ham, you can make the recipe with minced pork for the same weight. You only have to skip the first step.
So in a food processor mince meat leftovers, mortadella ham, Grana padano (or Parmigiano cheese), 1 small garlic clove and parsley. Then, in a bowl mix a whole egg with ground beef, a pinch of salt and ground black pepper.
Step 2) – Meantime, in a bowl, soak the stale bread in the milk for about 10 minutes. Once the bread is soaked, squeeze it with your hands to let the excess milk out. Add it to the ground meats.
Step 3) – Now add the grated lemon zest and mix all together with a wooden spoon. Now, take a little bit of the mixture and make a ball with your hands with a diameter of about 3/4 cm (1 inch and a half). Meatballs can be round or slightly oval, as you prefer.
Step 4) – Roll and cover the meatballs in bread crumbs (no batter them in eggs, it’s not necessary).
Step 5) – When ready fry them in a frying pan for about ten minutes, turning them frequently, with frying oil (even if the authentic recipe wants butter, nowadays it’s better frying with a proper oil). Cover with a lid if you want to be sure they are cooked inside.
How to Store Fried Meatballs
You can keep fried meatballs in the refrigerator for a maximum of 2-3 days in an airtight container. You can even freeze them.
Fried Italian Meatballs Variants
Being a popular recipe, the variants to the basic recipe are endless. Let’s see some of them:
Meat leftover used in the recipe can be roasted or stewed. For example we could make meatballs with leftovers of roasted chicken, mixed boiled meats or roasted veal;
If you are using boiled meat, you can add the vegetables in which it was cooked, such as carrot, potato and onion;
You can even add a little chopped onion to the mixture with the garlic;
You can add sausage in place or with other ingredients such as mortadella ham or meat leftovers;
In place of stale bread, you can add a medium boiled potato.
Curiosity and Origin of the Italian Name Polpetta (Meatball)
In Italian language meatball is called polpetta; but, while in Italy the name polpetta refers to a predominantly round preparation based on minced meat, in Milan this same type of preparation is indicated with the term mondeghili.
Mondeghili is one of the words that one hundred and fifty years of Spanish domination have left in the Milan dialect. In this regard, Francesco Cherubini, in his work Milanese-Italian Dictionary (Milan 1839), writes: “Mondeghili: species of meatballs made with ground meat, bread, egg, and similar ingredients”.
The word mondeghili actually comes from the Arabic “al-bunduc”. It’s in fact these people who taught the Spanish one the use of packing a sphere of minced meat and then frying it.
Spanish people called this preparation “albondiga”. From this name was born the word albondeguito which, subsequently, became albondeghito, to eventually become “mondeghilo/i” in the city of Milan.