Poppi's Meatballs

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(for everyday of the week!)

Poppi’s Meatballs


My dad would always make his famous (in our family anyway) meatballs every Sunday while listening to Tony Bennett songs. The house would fill up with the sounds of music and the aroma of the meatballs cooking making everyone excited about the meal to come. I remember it as if it were yesterday all of these happy times gathering family and friends around the dinner table. I’ve continued that tradition to this day, even the Tony Bennett songs! I modified the original method  slightly by having the butcher grind a chuck roast fresh instead of purchasing ground meat already packaged, this way the meatballs cook up moist, tender and light. I have also reduced the cook time down from 3 to 4 hours (that is how long Sunday sauce would simmer back then) to 30 minutes.

Start by making the sauce first!


1/2 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

(28-ounce) can chopped canned tomatoes, pureed in a blender for 5 seconds

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus additional for sprinkling

8 ounces of your favorite pasta

Freshly grated Romano cheese

Have all the ingredients lines up and ready to go before you start cooking.

Heat saucepan on medium-high heat. Add olive oil and garlic, saute the garlic turning gently until it starts to turn golden on all sides. Be careful not to burn the garlic or the sauce will taste bitter. If this happens discard and start again. Add the tomatoes, salt, water, sugar, butter, and red pepper flakes. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. If the sauce looks to thick or gets too thick while simmering add water 1/4 cup at a time. You don’t want it watery, but you do want it to have a silky consistency. Turn off heat and set aside while you make the meatballs.


2 (3-ounce) sweet Italian sausages, casings removed

2 pounds freshly ground chuck roast

1/2 white onion, cut into pieces

1 celery stalk, cut into pieces

1 small carrot, cut into pieces

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley

1 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup Romano cheese

2 pieces of white bread, crusts removed, torn into shreds

1/2 cup whole milk

1 garlic clove, crushed through a garlic press

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup olive oil

Place the sausages along with the ground chuck in a large bowl. In a food processor, pulse to chop the onion, celery, carrot, and parsley until finely chopped. Add the vegetable mixture to the meat. Add the bread crumbs, Parmesan and Romano cheese, white bread , milk, garlic, salt, egg, and ketchup.

Using your hands, mix gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated. From twelve 4-ounce meatballs (to help you gauge the size, you can use a 1/4″ inch dry measuring cup) Roll them in your hands to make smooth, round balls. Do not pack them too tightly.

Bring the marinara sauce to a low simmer.

Heat a frying pan until hot, add the olive oil, and swirl the oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides; they brown quickly, so watch them to be sure they don’t burn. DO NOT cook them all the way through; they will finish cooking in the sauce. Carefully lift and place them in the marinara sauce you have prepared, and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite pasta.



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