Thursday, August 12, 2010


I am having a love affair with meatballs. It all started with an appetizer order at Pizzeria Mozza a few months ago. The combination of the tangy red sauce and crisp garlic bread was so simple and perfect. Who needs pasta? A few weeks later, dining out in San Francisco, the same dish appeared on the menu at Pizzeria Delfina, pictured here. These were meatballs in sugo (with meat sauce) slightly glazed from a trip under the broiler.

Inspired, I tried a turkey version at home, but no dice. They were tasty enough, but tough and a little dry. Faced with a stack of leftover grassfed burgers and a pound of Italian sausages from our recent summer bbq, I decided to try again. I just happened to ask a co-worker if she had a good recipe, and she did. Her Grandma Ginny's famous meatballs. I love a good family recipe, and Grandma Ginny really came through. This is adapted only because I upped the quantity, since I had a pound of each type of meat to use, and I added a couple of garlic cloves and a little more parsley. These are still very mildly flavored - if you wanted to you could punch up the spices a bit or add some dried herbs you probably could (depending on the meat or sausage you're using) without any difficulty. If you're looking for a great, basic, tender and well flavored meatball recipe though - look no further. This one's a dream.

Meatballs in Sugo
adapted from my friend Elizabeth's Grandma Ginny

1 lb ground beef (I used grassfed)
1 lb ground pork or sweet Italian sausage (I used Rey Knight's Italian Sausage
1 1/3 cups fine dry breadcrumbs
small bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
3/4 cup finely grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese - grated on the small holes of a box grater
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
a few grinds of pepper
3/4 c milk
3 eggs

Place the ground beef, sausage, breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, garlic and cheese in a large bowl and mix together lightly. In a small bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together with the salt and pepper. Pour the milk/egg mixture over the meat and blend very thoroughly with your hands or a large wooden spoon.

Roll into balls about 1 1/2 inches across. They can be refrigerated or frozen at this point. To freeze, place the meatballs on a plate and put in the freezer until hard, then put the frozen meatballs in a plastic bag.

To cook:
Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large saute or fry pan over a medium flame, and brown the meatballs on all sides, turning with tongs. Add the meatballs to a pot of bubbling meat sauce (sugo) or marinara to finish cooking. Serve with garlic bread or pasta, sprinkled with more parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

To make the sugo:
Reserve about one meatball per serving and brown them in a small pan - breaking up the meat and chopping it up as it cooks so it has the consistency of ground beef. Add this to the sauce.

For the sauce:
If you have a homemade from scratch recipe, power to you! I've made a few but never fallen in love with one, and I wouldn't blame you if you didn't have time. I like to saute about a quarter cup of chopped garlic and onions, add about half a cup of red wine - reduce until just slightly syrupy, and pour in a jar of Trader Joes Organic Marinara sauce along with a healthy pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. You can do this with just about any basic jarred sauce.

This is very kid friendly. I served it to my nieces - 7 and 10 - as spaghetti and meatballs this weekend and they loved it!


  1. Those meatballs look stunning! I recall having a great pizza at Mozza a few years ago, although I was completely distracted by Meg Ryan at the next table. :-)

  2. Kathy - I think it's a good place for celeb spotting, we saw Wesley Snipes there, and James thought he saw someone whose name he couldn't remember last time!

  3. Made them tonight and they were great. This recipe is a keeper. Thanks! :)