Fried Italian meatballs are soft and crispy, made with a selection of fine meats ranging from beef, veal to chicken, turkey and pork. Meatballs recipes have their roots in peasant, poor cuisine 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. Simple but nutritious foods like other famous Italian dishes such as Chocolate bread cake and the Tuscan Pappa al Pomodoro.
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 cheese (or similar), 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.
In Italian language meatballs are called polpette; in northern Italy they are called Mondeghili. The name travels back to historic times and is related to the spanish word for meatball albondiga, since the spanish dominated the north of Italy for about 150 years.
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).
Fried Italian Meatballs Recipe
- 300 g (about 10 oz) of roast or boiled meat leftovers
- 300 g (about 10 oz) of ground beef
- 100 g (3,50 oz) of stale bread
- 1 glass 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
- butter for frying (or frying oil)
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
The authentic recipe of fried Italian 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 meats for the same weight. You have to skip the first step (photo 1) and add grated cheese, parsley and minced garlic directly to the minced meat (photo 2).
In a mixer mince meat leftovers, mortadella ham, Grana padano (or Parmigiano cheese), 1 small garlic clove and parsley (1). Then, in a bowl mix a whole egg with ground beef, a pinch of salt and ground black pepper (2). Meantime, in a bowl, soak the stale bread in the milk (3).
Once the bread is soaked, squeeze it with your hands to let the excess milk out. Add it to the ground beef and the meat leftovers (4), then add the grated lemon zest and mix all together with a wooden spoon (5). Now, take a little bit of the mixture and make balls 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 (6).
Roll and cover the meatballs in bread crumbs (7 -8) and fry them in a pan for about ten minutes, turning them frequently, with butter (the original recipe wants butter!) or a oil for frying (9). Serve fried Italian meatballs with a side dish of fresh green salad or baked potatoes (10).