Can’t seem to find your Nonna’s recipe, but still want to make delicious polpette? You’ve come to the right place. This Polpette recipe consists of Italian meatballs cooked to golden brown perfection and nestled in a rich tomato sauce. It’s an easy Italian-American dish the entire family will love. 

Meatballs in tomato sauce on a wooden table.

A fun way to jazz up your pork recipes is by making polpette. This dish is common in almost every Italian household because it only requires a handful of ingredients and is super versatile. All you need is 30 minutes, and you can create a flavorful dish perfect for Sunday dinner or parties. 

What Is Polpette?

Created as a way to use up leftover meat, polpette is an Italian recipe but is found in many other countries, such as Spain and the Netherlands. The traditional recipe found in Italian cuisine consists of ground meat, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and egg, similar to our pork meatballs. For this recipe, we opted out of the egg and bread crumbs but still used a mixture of meats and aromatic vegetables for that authentic Italian flavor. 

A group of recipe ingredients on a black surface.

Polpette Ingredients

For the polpette:

  • Ground pork – look for regular ground pork. 
  • Ground beef – use lean ground beef since the pork is pretty fatty. 90/10 would work.  This is also great with ground veal.
  • Parmesan cheese – freshly grated or pre-grated. You could also use pecorino cheese for a more tangy flavor. 
  • Garlic – adds a pungent depth of flavor. 
  • Oregano, Basil, & Parsley – classic Italian herbs that boost the flavor profile. 
  • Fennel seeds – a spice typically found in Italian cooking. It has a sweet flavor similar to black licorice. 
  • Red pepper flakes – add a slight kick. 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Black pepper

For the sauce:

  • Onion & Garlic – deepens the flavor of the sauce. 
  • Red pepper flakes – add a slight kick.
  • Tomato paste & crushed tomatoes – the base for the sauce. 
  • Erythritol or sugar – adds a slight sweetness to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes. 
  • Balsamic vinegar – adds a tangy flavor. 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bay leaves, Basil, & Parsley – aromatic herbs for flavor. 

How to Make Italian Polpette

To start, shape the polpette by combining all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl, rolling them into 8 tennis ball-sized round meatballs, and refrigerating them overnight.

A bowl of food on a black hexagon surface.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and heat oil in a large cast iron or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it simmers. Brown the meatballs on all sides, taking 5 to 7 minutes and working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan.

Meatballs on a black baking sheet.

Once golden brown, transfer the braising dish to the oven and bake until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

A cast iron skillet with meatballs in it.

While the polpette is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté diced onion until softened (about 5 minutes), then add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Meatballs in a skillet on the stove.

Stir in tomato paste, diced tomatoes, erythritol (or sugar), and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, add bay leaves and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and stir in chopped parsley and basil.

Once the meatballs are done baking, remove them from the oven. Nestle the meatballs into the red sauce, drizzle olive oil over them, and add a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese and basil, if desired. If you’re in the mood for extra cheese, plate the meatballs over slices of mozzarella. 

Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips

  • Use a cookie scoop to shape the meatball mixture.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meatballs. It should reach 165ºF. 
A skillet filled with meatballs and sauce.

What to Serve With Polpette

These meatballs are super versatile, making them perfect for serving as a main course or appetizer. To soak up some of that delicious sauce, add a side of crusty rosemary garlic bread with your meatballs. If you want to bulk up this dish, place some meatballs on top of a bed of pasta or polenta. To keep things low carb, you could serve them with a side salad, roasted green beans, or air fryer veggies.

One of our favorite ways to serve these meatballs is by making a meatball sandwich. But if you’re going to do this, you may need to cut these huge meatballs in half! Line a hoagie roll with some melty mozzarella cheese and a scoop or two of these meatballs. It’s a match made in heaven.

Wine Pairing

We love red wine paired with red sauce and hearty meatballs. We suggest a Malbec or GSM. Bonus points if you decide to splurge and pick up a bottle from Italy.

A bowl of meatballs and basil.

Leftovers & Reheating

Store leftover meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months. 

To reheat, place a large pot on the stove top on medium heat. Let the meatballs simmer until warm.

More Italian Recipes

Made with simple ingredients, this polpette recipe is a delicious dish the whole family will love. One bite of these juicy, flavorful meatballs, and you’ll be saying, “Buon appetito” in no time.

Have you tried this recipe? Do us a favor and rate the recipe card with the  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ and drop a comment to help out the next reader.

Homemade Polpette

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
5 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 12
A bowl of meatballs and basil in marinara sauce.
These baked Italian meatballs are made with a mix of ground beef, pork, cheese and herbs for incredibly fork-tender texture bathed in a chunky slow-cooked tomato sauce.


For the polpette

  • 1 lbs Ground pork
  • 1 lbs Ground beef
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Basil
  • 1/2 tsp Parsley
  • ½ tsp Fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp Red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • ½ tsp Black pepper

​​For the sauce:

  • 1 onion diced
  • 7 to 10 cloves of garlic minced
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Tomato paste
  • (2) 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp erythritol or sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bay leaves
  • Basil
  • Parsley


Shape the polpette

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl
  • Roll into 8 tennis ball-sized meatballs
  • Refrigerate overnight

Cook the polpette

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Heat oil in a large cast iron or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until simmering.
  • Add the meatballs and brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes, working in batches if needed to not overcrowd the pan.
  • Once all the polpettes are browned, transfer the braising dish to the oven and bake them until cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, another 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the meatballs. Always use a digital meat thermomter for the most accrate results.

Make the sauce

  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and saute until softened 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and red pepper flakes cook 30 seconds longer.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir to coat.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, erythritol (or sugar) and vinegar and stir to combine.
  • Season with a liberal pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Add the bay leaves and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Remove from the heat and add in the chopped parsley and basil, stirring to combine.
  • When the meatballs have cooked, remove them from the oven.
  • Nestle the meatballs into the sauce and drizzle olive oil over top and a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese and basil if desired.
  • If you want a little more cheese, plate the meatballs over slices of mozzarella cheese


Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meatballs. It should reach 165ºF. 


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 243kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 403mg | Potassium: 453mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 217IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 97mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Kita Roberts

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Recipe FAQs

Can I make a big batch of these meatballs?

Yes! You can double or triple the ingredients to make a huge batch of these bad boys and freeze them for later. They’ll last up to 3 months. Use the same reheating instructions as above. 

​Can I use store-bought sauce?

Yes! If you don’t feel like making the sauce or want to save some time, feel free to use your favorite red sauce. You don’t even have to use the sauce if you don’t want to. We use Roa’s in our kitchen for quick weeknight meals.

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Well, Hey, Y’all.

Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat.


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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Haven’t made this since my Italian restaurant days. This brought back fond memories. Thanks, Kita!

  2. 5 stars
    A Nona classic!! Thanks for posting this, spot on for how my mom and grandmother cooked years ago (my mom would deep fry the meatballs back in the day for extra crispiness!!)