Saying that meatballs or polpette are a staple in our house is an understatement. Growing up, every Sunday we had meatballs and, then, every Monday we had meatball subs for lunch. Today, all my nieces and nephews are crazy about meatballs. On Sundays, they charge to the table and wait, fork-in-hand, for nonna’s polpette to hit the table.
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1-2 tablespoons of dried parsley or 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup water
Place the bread crumbs in a small dish and add the water. Gently stir, folding dry bread crumbs into the wet ones. Set aside.
Add all the other ingredients to a large bowl. Add the moistened bread crumbs. Combine the ingredients by folding and pressing them into the side of the bowl. Continue folding and pressing, scooping from the bottom, until all the ingredients are well combined. This is going to require a little muscle!
Using a tablespoon, scoop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into your hands, roll it into a tight ball, and set on a large plate or cookie sheet. If you’re a seasoned meatball-making professional like my mom, you’ll roll as you drop them into the hot oil, but I don’t recommend it. Making the meatballs before you start the cooking process is not only safer, but allows you focus on cooking.
Fill a medium frying pan about a third of the way with olive oil and heat over medium-high to high heat until hot. Test the oil by dropping in a pinch a meat. The meat should immediately start frying; you should notice little oil bubbles all around the meat and hear a nice sizzle. Gently add the meatballs to the frying pan and fry in batches. When a cap of uncooked meat about the size of a quarter is left on the top, use a spoon and fork to gently roll them over to the other side. Once golden brown, remove from heat and set aside. At this point, the meatballs will not be cooked all the way through. They will finish cooking once added to the sauce. If you plan to eat them just fried (a very good snack), then flatten them a bit before adding them to the frying pan to ensure the middle will cook through.
Add the meatballs to the sauce, using the Sunday Sauce recipe. The fried meatballs can also be frozen in plastic bags or Tupperware and cooked in sauce at a later time, cutting down the work on your next Sunday Sauce day.
Often times ground meat packages are not exactly one pound. If the beef and pork are a little over one pound each, don’t worry about it. Meatballs are more of an art than science; they’ll be a little different every time and that’s ok. This recipe will be fine with up to a total of about 2.25 - 2.5 pounds of ground meat.
You can substitute the parsley for mint or add two cloves of finely chopped garlic for variations in flavor.