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Trenchers' Polpette (Housemade Meatballs)

The classic meatballs... while here in the USA we always see them on top of a giant mountain of spaghetti, in Italy they let the meatballs be the star of the show instead of the side kick. 


Chef Tips: The secret for good meatballs is to work the meatball fix to help them become firmer. When mixing and shaping, knead the mixture well. We prefer to form the meatballs into larger 2 oz balls, perfect for sandwhiches and entree style meatballs. 

Ready to serve in: 45 minutes - 1 hour
Active time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4-6 Adults, makes about 16 large meatballs


Polpette Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork or Italian style sausage, bulk or casing removed
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh oregano, chopped (1 tsp dried)
  • 1 large sprig of fresh rosemary (1/4 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 1 ea lemon, zest
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 head of fennel, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili flake
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt (to taste)

Tomato Sauce Ingredients: 

  • 24 oz chopped or smashed tomatoes, canned or fresh
  • 1/2 head of roasted garlic (about 6 cloves, we roaste whole heads in a 325* oven wrapped in foil with a touch of EVO for about an hour).
  • 2 calabrian chilis, chopped, optional
  • 1 tbsp mixed italian herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley) chopped
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Ingredients to Finish: 

  • 1 tsp chili flake (optional)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Malfaldine Pasta, optional


  1. In a medium saute pan add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and place over medium heat. Add onions, fennel and garlic. Saute until translucent about 5-8 minutes. Set aside to cool. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, Italian sausage, eggs, cooled veggies, Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, herbs, lemon zest, salt, black pepper and chili flake. 
  3. Mix well, see our chef tips. Cover the bowl and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Make the tomato sauce. Simply blend with an immersion blender all of the tomato sauce ingredients. We like to keep this sauce chunkier. Taste and season with herbs and salt. 
  5. Portion the mixture into meatballs. Our favorite is a large 4 oz cookie scoop. Place onto a lined sheet tray.
  6. Preheat the oven on to 375* F
  7. In a deep baking pan coat the bottom with the tomato sauce. Set aside. 
  8. In a heavy bottom saute pan or cast iron skillet add 1/4 cup of oil and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the meatballs, working in batches to not crowd the pan. Saute meatballs until crispy and golden then flip and repeat on the other side. Set onto a paper towel to drain. The meatballs should still be raw in the center.  
  9. Repeat with the rest of the meatballs. 
  10. Nestle the meatballs in the tomato mixture, top with more if needed and bake for 20-25 minutes. 
  11. Top with parmigiano reggiano and serve. 

Recipe Notes:

Every kitchen needs to have polpette in their meals rotation. Best part is it's easy to double the recipe and have lunch too! Meatballs can be frozen to cook off at a future time as well.

If you want to serve them with pasta, our favorite shape is the Malfaldine.

We also will make the polpette into polpettini (small meatballs) about 1/3 of the size or make a polpettone (large meatloaf) by forming the whole things into 2 loaves.

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