Quick, Classic Meatballs (Polpette)

Quick classic meatball recipe

The Spruce 

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
446 Calories
35g Fat
7g Carbs
25g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 446
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 35g 45%
Saturated Fat 8g 39%
Cholesterol 134mg 45%
Sodium 585mg 25%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 25g
Vitamin C 2mg 10%
Calcium 97mg 7%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 355mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

While spaghetti and meatballs have come to symbolize "Italian food" in the U.S. as much as pizza does, many Americans might be surprised to learn that many Italians have never heard of, let alone eaten, this dish. In the south of Italy and Sicily, small meatballs are sometimes served with pasta, but baseball-sized meatballs on top of a pile of spaghetti are really more of an Italian-American thing.

Meatballs in Italy do indeed exist, but they are generally smaller (ranging from marble-sized to about the size of a golf ball) and eaten either on their own or in soups. They're more of a home-cooking dish than a restaurant item, and they're usually made with a mixture of different meats, rather than just ground beef chuck (as is more common in the U.S.) and a mixture of ground beef, pork, and veal is the ideal combination in terms of flavor and texture. Since ground veal can be difficult to find, though, This recipe calls for just ground beef and pork, but you can substitute some of the total amounts with ground veal.

Feel free to serve these with a simple tomato sauce and pasta, in a sandwich, or alone! They make a great antipasto appetizer, or cocktail party finger food, skewered on toothpicks and perhaps with a dipping sauce, or in small buns as meatball sliders.


  • 2 slices white bread, crusts removed and discarded, torn into small pieces

  • 6 tablespoons Greek yogurt

  • 2 tablespoons milk, stirred into the yogurt, or 1/2 cup buttermilk in place of the yogurt-milk mixture

  • 3/4 pound ground beef

  • 1/4 pound ground pork

  • 4 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely minced

  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, or amount needed for pan-frying

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for meatballs
    The Spruce
  2. First, combine the pieces of bread and the yogurt-and-milk mixture (or the buttermilk) in a small bowl, mashing everything together with the tines of a fork to form a smooth paste. Set aside and let soften—about 5 to 10 minutes.

    Combine yogurt and milk
    The Spruce
  3. When the yogurt-milk mixture is softened and smooth, transfer it to a medium mixing bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients (except for the vegetable oil) and use your hands to gently mix them together.

    Transfer to a mixing bowl
    The Spruce
  4. Still using your fingers, gently form the mixture at a time into golf ball-sized meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter). Be careful not to overwork the mixture, to avoid making your meatballs dense and tough, but the meatballs do need to be formed tightly enough that they won't fall apart during cooking. You'll get the hang of it after trying it once.

    Form into meatballs
    The Spruce 
  5. In a high-sided sauté pan, heat about 1/4-inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When a meatball dropped in sizzles immediately, the oil is hot enough. 

    Heat pan
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  6. Fry the meatballs, without overcrowding them, turning them as they cook so that they brown evenly on all sides (chopsticks are great for this purpose)—about 10 minutes. You might need to prop them up against the edges of the pan or against each other to brown all sides. 

    Fry the meatballs
    The Spruce 
  7. Drain the meatballs on a paper-towel-lined plate. 

    Drain the meatballs
    The Spruce
  8. Serve hot with a simple tomato sauce, as part of a sandwich, or with pasta.

    Serve hot
    The Spruce
  9. Enjoy!