Mom’s Italian Meatballs – are the Best!

Kathryn for
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel

Last month, I attended an event organized by Salvatore Sciacca,  executive Director of the Chicagoland Italian American Professionals (CIAP). The event was called  The First Annual Meatball Fest.

As I mention in my latest blog I recently posted on my sister  blog for Italian language and culture, Learn Italian! the CIAP group features Italian-American “cooking competition” events several times a year, and I have to say, they are always a delicious and  entertaining way to spend a Sunday afternoon with my family.

Click on the link to visit the recent Learn Italian! blog post from October 10, 2018, to read all about my experiences making my family’s meatballs and how that day sparked my interest in learning more about this traditional Italian food. Learn (probably) more than you’ve ever wanted to know about the history of Italian meatballs, making Italian meatballs, and my favorite cookbook, Ada Boni’s Italian Regional Cooking.


Mom’s Best Italian Meatballs

When I was invited to be one of the home cooks for this fall’s event,  The First Annual Meatball Fest,  I quickly checked my calendar, noted I was available, and signed up for another Sunday afternoon of Italian-American food and fun.

I had learned  my family recipe for Italian meatballs from my Sicilian-American mother and grandmother long ago, and have been preparing meatballs  for my own family for Italian Sunday dinners for about 20 years now.  I was happy to share my family’s recipe with other families at the event, and also looking forward to tasting what the other home cooks had to offer.

Growing up in an Italian-American household as I did, I really did not have to  do anything special to prepare for the  Italian meatball event held by the CIAP group – at least, I thought I didn’t have to do anything special !  

As it turned out, though, after hearing the other home cooks talk about their method for making meatballs,  I came home curious about the origins of this very common Italian-American dish and ended up doing a bit of research after the event! Click HERE to read more…

Visit my newly UPDATED and REDESIGNED website, for more of my Italian and Italian-American recipes, cultural notes and  advanced Italian language blog posts updated monthly. 

6 thoughts on “Mom’s Italian Meatballs – are the Best!

  1. Great post. Despite everything I do, I never feel that my own meatballs measure up to my late mother’s. One of the best culinary memories I have is the wonderful aroma of the meatballs frying before going into the sauce. My mother fried them in that big can of Gemma oil; she saved the “good oil” for salads and dressing vegetables. She poached some in the sauce because Daddy liked them that way. She used bread soaked in milk, added a little bit of ground pork, and plenty of parsley and grated Pecorino cheese. No onion. You are absolutely right about how many different approaches there are–my relatives in Maine often made meatballs from moose or deer meat. People cooked with what they had. The Ada Boni book is fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing how your mother made her meatballs. I’ve always wanted to watch how someone mixes the bread soaked in milk into the meatballs. It never seems to come out right when I do it! I’m sure your mother’s meatballs were delicious! Also, so glad you are a fan of Ada Boni! I’ve learned so much from her book, I feel like she is a good friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathryn, I enjoyed reading your post about the meatball fest and competition as well as your family story and recipe of meatballs and sauce. I would love to talk to you about this because a comment is just not enough space to discuss it. I have done extensive research on this topic and recently published a book with a chapter dedicated to spaghetti and meatballs. Spaghetti and meatballs are Italian. As I write in my book, historically, most Italian cookbooks were written by Northern Italians for Northern Italians with little mention of Southern Italian cuisine. There was beef in Southern Italy, not just pork, but meatballs were also made of combinations of veal, pork and beef. You are right not to be convinced that meatballs are not served with pasta. They are. Tomato sauce/gravy and macaroni/pasta with meat/meatballs is a Southern Italian dish. And I’m sure each family has its variation, as meatballs are an ancient food. There is a trend today in food media to distinguish Italian from Italian-American food, and the food media is perpetuating myths about Italian food. I think this is because Italian-American food is the cuisine of Southern Italy, and in my view, is purely classism/ethnic discrimination against Southern Italians.


    1. Thanks for your comments! Yes, my family is 100% Sicilian American, and grandparents on both sides have always served meatballs and spaghetti together. I don’t know that it is discrimination per se, just that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”- whoever writes the cook books sets the standard. I am glad there are now more southern Italian cookbooks! Also, middle eastern cultures have meatballs as well, so not sure they actually originated in Italy, but the Italians certainly have done wonders with them!


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