Passion for Pork

Nonna’s Polpette (Grandma’s Meatballs) Recipe

Mijune - Thursday, September 25, 2014

Nonna’s Polpette (Grandma’s Meatballs) Recipe

Recipe courtesy of Ricardo Scebba. From his cook book That’s Amore.

Grandma recipes tend to be reliable. They’re tried, tested and true and often nostalgic, reliable and comforting. This recipe wasn’t even from my grandma (not many Asian grandmas make meatballs, well at least not with parmesan and tomato sauce), but I fell in love with it. I only wish I had grown up with these little bundles of joy.

There are so many meatball recipes out there and whether or not this is “the best” one, it’s worth trying. They’re originally made with 1 lb beef and 1 lb pork, but I chose to use all pork. Mainly because I love pork, but my mom also doesn’t eat beef. I eat and like beef, but I am a lover of pork.

These meatballs have breadcrumbs and milk which adds to a very soft, melt-in-your-mouth, creamy texture, which I prefer. Some people like firmer meatballs with more of a bite (usually beef ones are like this), but the soft ones are versatile. I can spread it on sandwiches, eat them as is, and for some reason they don’t feel as filling so I can eat more.

I talked to chef Ricardo Scebba, whom I first tried these meatballs from and he admittedly said “I can’t make them as good as my mom”, which makes me nervous. However the recipe still works, although I’m curious how much better they can get with “grandma’s touch”. Experience. He also serves them at his restaurant Ricardo’s in Kelowna, but being 4 hours away from Vancouver it’s not as convenient.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I’d consider adding these meatballs to your turkey stuffing as an alternative to sausage. Remember they are much softer than sausage so they won’t necessary break well in a stuffing, but I’d just crumble it gently overtop after baking the stuffing separately. Use it like ricotta cheese – or better yet, consider using both!

Nonna’s Polpette (Grandma’s Meatballs) Recipe

Makes about 30 meatballs.


1 lb ground pork
1 lb lean ground pork
1 cup fine grated parmesan
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper (2 to 1)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2cups white wine

For the mixture:
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup parsley
1 tbsp chicken oxo (optional)


1. Use a food processor to blend the “mixture” ingredients to a pulp.

2. In a bowl, add mixture to remaining ingredients (except wine) and incorporate well. Adjust with bread crumbs for a medium consistency.

3. Oil your hands and roll golf ball sized meatballs until all meat is sealed and you have nice tight evenly rounded balls.

4. Every 4 or 5 meatballs, you will need to add more oil to your hands, or the mix will get sticky and hard to manage.

5. Roll up remaining meatballs.

6. In your best non-stick frying pan, add a generous amount of vegetable oil, so meatballs will be half covered. Place in oil, on medium heat to cook bottoms slowly. Shake the pan occasionally, to make sure your meatballs are not sticking. When browned, very gently, flip meatballs with a spoon to brown other side. Carefully remove meatballs from frying pan to cookie sheet. They will be very fragile at this point, especially if you have used turkey.

7. Drain and discard frying pan oil and carefully put meatballs back into frying pan. Add white wine (about 2 cups or more) until most of the meatballs are covered.

8. Bring heat to high and cook the meatballs in wine. The wine will evaporate as the meatballs cook. Shake the pan to ensure they’re not sticking to the bottom or burning. When almost all wine has evaporated, the meatballs will start making noise. They’re saying “Pay attention to us here or we will burn”. So turn down the heat and tend to your little friends until the wine is mostly gone.

9. The meatballs are nowhere near as fragile now, so you can pour them (along with all the delicious pan scrapings) into a saucepan. Add tomato sauce to cover the meatballs and simmer about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Ricardo’s Tips:

  • I use regular ground beef for a reason. It has a higher fat content and fat makes things taste really good. Although you may choose lean ground beef if you wish.
  • Replace beef with turkey in this recipe for a truly Italian experience. Turkey tends to be more delicate and trickier to work with, so I recommend trying it after you’re comfortable working with the beef.