Real Italian Meatballs

Real Italian Meatballs

I have numerous guilty pleasures in this world. Every girl must have a few, right? Most of them are food related but one of them is…I’m almost too embarrassed to admit…Bravo TV. I religiously watch The Real Housewives of Every City. It’s like watching a very well dressed train wreck. Impossible to stop once you start. Consider yourself warned! The Real Housewives of New Jersey may be out of control crazy but boy can they cook! Almost every episode someone is making some good old-fashioned Italian food, so I decided to try my hand at heritage Italian Meatballs in honor of the RHONJ.

Real Italian Meatballs

I found this heritage Italian Meatball recipe in One Big Table, which is a compilation of old-fashioned American recipes by Molly O’Neill. It is the Camparetti family’s recipe from New York City, and just like the RHONJ, it is crazy good!

Real Italian Meatballs

Just like any good Italian recipe, there is still some room for interpretation so that no one can duplicate it precisely. Sometimes I wish I were at least partially Italian, so that I could have learned the secrets from my Grandmother even if that heritage comes with a side of crazy!

Real Italian Meatballs

These Italian Meatballs are not a quick fix, but their balance of flavors and texture are well worth the effort. Next time I will double the recipe and freeze the leftovers. Serve with my Homemade Tomato Sauce.  Perfecto!

Real Italian Meatballs
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Real Italian Meatballs

  • Author: Comparetti’s Italian Meatballs
  • Total Time: 40 minutes


Flavorful, moist meatballs! Delicious on their own but also phenomenal in sauce, on meatball subs or as an easy appetizer! 



Bread Crumbs

  • Two ½ inch slices stale Italian bread
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • Milk, as needed
  • ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 ½ lbs mixed ground beef, veal, and pork [I used 1lb, ¾ lb, ¾ lb respectively]
  • 1 to 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • [1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt – I left this out. You salt to your taste]
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of freshly ground white pepper [why does this smell so strange? Seriously?]
  • 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning [I made my own.] 
  • ½ teaspoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese


To Make the Bread Crumbs

  1. In a food processor, pulse the bread until medium-fine crumbs form. In a large skillet over medium, melt the butter. Add the shallot and garlic and cook about 1 minutes until aromatic. Stir in the breadcrumbs, oregano, salt and cayenne and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl to come to room temperature. 

To Make Italian Meatballs

  1. Add milk to bread crumbs 1 tablespoon at a time at 1-minute intervals, until the crumbs are soft but not soupy. Comparetti says, “The mixture should be the consistency of thick Cream of Wheat”. 
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. I just used the breadcrumb skillet. Add the onion and cook about 4 minutes until soft. Cool to room temperature. 
  3. In a large bowl, break up the meat with a spoon. Put the onion, 1 of the eggs, and the basil in the center of the meat and gently incorporate. Add the fennel, garlic powder, adobo seasoning, tomato paste, salt, and peppers to the meat and mix gently. 
  4. Gently add the cheese and the breadcrumb mixture, adding crumbs only as needed until it is cohesive and smooth. You may not need all the breadcrumbs. I didn’t need even half! If you have added all the breadcrumbs and the mixture is still crumbly or loose, add the extra egg.
  5. Cover the bowl and let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for up to 30 minutes. 
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  7. With wet hands, form the meat into 2-inch balls. Mine were a more manageable 1-inch. 
  8. Heat the remaining ½ cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the meatballs and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, turning until brown on all sides. Transfer the browned meatballs to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining meatballs. 
  9. Bake the meatballs about 25 minutes, until they are no longer pink on the inside. 
  10. I transferred them to a paper towel lined dish and blotted them to remove excess oil. 
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Category: Dinner
Real Italian Meatballs


  • Kayle (The Cooking Actress)
    July 23, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    It’s Ok, I love Millionaire Matchmaker and Tabatha Takes Over 😛

    AND OMG loooove these meatballs!

    • Lindsey
      July 23, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      Who said I didn’t watch those too?! 😉

      These meatballs were darn good!

  • Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes
    July 24, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Mmm nothing like real Italian meatballs. My dad is Italian and my husband’s family is too so I was fortunate to learn from the best when it came to Italian meatballs and other Italian food. Yours look awesome!!

    • Lindsey
      July 24, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Gasp! So jealous! I’ll have to saunter over to your site and see if I can find another recipe to try!

  • Kristina
    July 24, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Haha its ok… I still watch the Bachelorette even though this season is EMBARRASSINGLY awful 🙂 And love love real Italian meatballs. I grew up with an Italian mom so I have a huge soft spot for these, yum!

    • Lindsey
      July 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      LOL! I remember when the Bachelorette first started. I think that the season I watched was one of the only couples that actually stayed together!
      I love meatballs too, obvi! You’ll have to post one sometime so that I can try it 🙂

  • Vane
    July 24, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    These look so delicious! And don’t you worry. We all have guilty pleasures. I have some of my own as well. I just started watching Gossip Girl on Netflix…I binge-watch until my eyes burn from looking at the screen for way too long. I know the series ended a while back, but I never got into it back then. If you know the ending, please don’t tell me! 🙂

    • Lindsey
      July 24, 2013 at 11:22 pm

      I would never divulge the secret! I did the same thing with Gossip Girl! It’s so much better to be able to watch several in a row. Maybe I’m just super impatient! lol!

  • Liz
    July 25, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Your meatballs look marvelous!!!! I’d love them with some sauce over pasta…mmmmmm….

    • Lindsey
      July 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      …or maybe as a meatball sub. Yummy!

  • mandy
    January 16, 2014 at 8:11 am

    just tried this is so easy to follow. i love the addition of the cheese. i have just put them in the fridge to rest,cant wait to cook them. i did add some sweet chilli sauce,i just love the flavour it gives to any meat dish…my nephew is crying for the meat balls already..gotta go

    • Lindsey
      January 16, 2014 at 9:30 am

      Thank you, Mandy! Your addition of sweet chili sauce is intriguing – I’ve never used that before but I’ll have to try it! Hope you and your nephew enjoyed them!

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