Baked Meatballs with Potatoes

Polpette della nonna

Polpette or polpette al sugo (to be precise) is a traditional Italian meatball recipe that has become a staple of Italian home cooking.
Every Sunday, nonnas all around Italy were used to make a big batch of polpette. I do not know if it is still in use now!
Of course, like a lot of other recipes in Italy, everyone has their own recipe and refined technique. As you make them a few dozens of times you will develop a sense of perfect meatballs even without following a recipe.
But for now, if you follow this polpette al sugo recipe you will have juicy and tenders’ homemade oven-baked meatballs.
If you are new to Italian cooking, let us clear some questions you might have.

What are Polpette?

  • Polpette are Italian bite size, round-shaped nuggets made of meat (polpette di carne), ricotta (polpette di ricotta), different types of veggies (potato, zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin etc.). In this last case you would add main vegetable name to the frase “polpette di zucchine, polpette di melanzane and so on.
  • Quite often, Italians also make polpette to use left-over foods such as risotto, boiled meat or chicken breast and even bread.
  • Etymology of the word polpetta is most likely coming from Latin word pulpa/ae which could be translated in “meat without bone”.

Ingredients for Baked Meatballs with Potatoes (4 servings)

  • 500 gr grounded meat (veal, beef, mix pork and beef etc.)
  • 200 gr. Cooked potatoes 
  • 50 gr. breadcrumbs
  • 75 gr Parmigiano reggiano
  • 1 egg
  • Parsley. Oregano or any other herb of your preference
  • 1 garlic clove (shallot, red onion, or …. nothing)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)

How To Make Italian Meatballs – Step By Step

  1. Place potato in their skin in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until tender.
    Drain and peel.
  3. Place the cooked potatoes into a potato ricer. Mash and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl add ground beef and crumble it with a wooden spoon or simply using your hands.
  5. Add breadcrumbs, egg(s) and Parmesan cheese.
  6. Mix everything well with your hands and add the herb of your choice.
  7. Grate the garlic (if using).
  8. Add salt and pepper.

    TIP: If the mixture feels too dry add some milk, if way too soft, almost liquid-y – add more breadcrumbs.
  9. An ideal meatball mix should be moist, easy to roll in your hands and hold the shape.
  10. Preheat oven to 180º.
  11. Pinch of about 50 grams of meat and roll it between the palms of your hands giving it a smooth round shape.
  12. With 50 grams of meat you willl have medium size meatballs. Of course, being you the protagonist in your kitchen, you decide the size. Make your meatballs smaller or bigger, depending on your preference.
  13. Place rolled meatballs on a baking sheet. Line with parchment paper to avoid extra cleaning.
  14. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  15. Add baked meatballs, in the sauce of your preference.
  16. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for another 15 minutes.

    Enjoy, Buon Appetito!!

5 Reasons Why You Should Make Polpette

  • You do not have to spend hours in the kitchen! All you need is a few simple ingredients to make the most delicious Italian Polpette in a few simple steps.
  • They freeze great. Make a big batch and enjoy homemade Italian meatballs. And they can help you for a quick last-minute dinner!
  • Super-fast AND healthy too!
  • You still can (MUST!) use the sauce to make delicious pasta with rich tomato sauce that has absorbed all flavours of the meatballs. If you are so good not to make “scarpetta” at the end of your dinner!!!!
  • With just one recipe you have both first course and second course ready to serve, which keeps in the fridge for about 2 days.

Polpette – Italian Meatballs Ingredients

– Top-quality ground beef or veal is one of the secrets of making the best, juiciest meatballs in the world.
– To the beef, you can also add ground pork or sausage meat.
Spices/ Herbs
– Classic spices for Italian meatballs (baked or fried) are nutmeg and oregano, but chopped parsley is also used very often. If you like you can also add some marjoram and fennel seeds.
Shallot, Onion, Garlic
– I love using garlic for the meatballs. But you may also use shallots as they have a milder flavor than onions.
Bread or Breadcrumbs
– Both work well. If using fresh bread remove the crust.
– Some say meatballs make with soaked bread come out tender than with breadcrumbs. I think it’s a matter of personal preference.
Meatballs Size
– In this case, size does NOT really matter. If they are of the same size in the batch, which helps meatballs to cook evenly, you are off to a good start.

3 Ways To Cook Meatballs

Baked (Healthy)
Baked meatballs is a super healthy alternative to the classic Fried Italian
Meatballs. I used baked meatballs when doing prep for the freezer.

Fried (Classic)
Classic Italian Meatballs are definitely fried. Possibly in extra virgin olive oil. But
since most of us think that is a luxury, make sure you use good quality and
generous amount of vegetable oil.

Nonna Way (Fast AND Healthy)
Simple, fast, and healthy.
Basically, you add raw meatballs to the pan to cook together with the sauce.

Here’s how you do it:
– In a large pan add a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil.
– Add garlic (shallot or onion) add toss in a pan for a few minutes.
– Add raw meatballs
– Cover with tomato sauce and herbs.
– Cook for at least 45 minutes on a low fire.

Can you freeze homemade meatballs?

The short answer: is – absolutely!
Freeze them on a tray after baking in the oven, then transfer into a freezer bag.
When needed remove from the freezer and cook in the sauce (no need to defrost).
My best advice is to freeze them together with the sauce. This way you will not loose that delicious juiciness from the meat and hence flavor.

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