Skip to main content

Florence, Italy: Mamma's Meatballs & Homemade Sauce Recipe

C. De Melo is a Renaissance Art Historian & Author specializing in historical novels set in Italy. Please visit cdemelo (dot) com

Absolutely DELICIOUS!


Use Vine Ripened Tomatoes & Red Wine for Great Sauce!


Fresh Basil is a MUST


Who Doesn't Like a Nice, Juicy Meatball?

I cannot think of any self-respecting carnivore that doesn't enjoy a good meatball dinner now and then. Add homemade tomato sauce and you have a match made in heaven.

My recipe is easy, delicious and 100% made from scratch. Here in Italy, Italians usually eat meatballs with rice or polenta, but here in Tuscany, it is a main dish usually eaten with a side of vegetables (like spinach). Spaghetti and Meatballs is another one of those "American Inventions" (like Alfredo sauce or Chicken Florentine).

With that said, however, the following recipe is perfect for your fact, that is what I will be serving with my meatballs today (fresh pasta that I bought from my favorite pasta maker), and washed down with a good Chianti.


1 large onion- chopped

3 big cloves of garlic- chopped

6-8 ripe tomatoes- chopped

2 bullion cubes (beef or vegetable is fine)

handful of fresh basil leaves- chopped

1 t sugar

generous splash of red wine (about 1/2 cup)

pepper to taste (also salt, if needed)

1. In a big pot, sauté onions and garlic in a generous amount of olive oil. Crush bullion cubes (or dissolve them with a bit of hot water) and add them to the pot. When onions are soft, add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes begin to "liquify."

2. Lower heat and add basil, sugar, wine, pepper and salt. Continue to simmer on low heat. At this point, start your meatballs.

Scroll to Continue

MEATBALLS: this my version of my butcher's recipe, which he got from his mother (the Italian Mamma!!!). To see what else Mamma does, please see the added 'note' at the end.

500-600 grams (a little over a pound) of ground meat. I like to use 2/3 beef and 1/3 pork since it makes the meatballs tender and savory

1 large bread roll (preferably a day old) finely crumbled and moistened with some milk (note: do not use the commercialized "soft" rolls like hamburger buns since those are full of chemicals. Go to the bakery and get real bread- the kind that doesn't last for months on a supermarket shelf in a plastic bag).

1 egg- beaten with a bit of milk

2 T grated Parmesean cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix all ingredients until well blended and GENTLY roll into balls. Do not pack the meat tightly or the meatballs will be hard, not soft.

2. Add raw meatballs to sauce carefully one by one and cover the pot.

3. Let simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes or until meatballs are cooked and tender. Turn off the heat and let them sit covered for about 20 minutes before serving.

NOTE: In the Mamma's original recipe, you can add a bit of ground mortadella to the meat to add more flavor (this can be found in any good deli). Also, you can roll the raw meatballs in dry breadcrumbs and lightly fry them in olive oil to brown them before adding them to the sauce. Doing this will prevent them from crumbling and will give them a nice color. Buon apetito and thank you for reading!

C. De Melo

Always Lightly Roll Meatballs- NEVER Pack Them Tightly!



C De Melo (author) on August 22, 2011:

LOL!!!! You have a SMART dog with good taste!

Karen Migliori on August 20, 2011:

Well, the dog loves them, too! I had thought about having one or two for lunch a couple of days after we initially had them, but decided there was enough so that I didn't have to cook dinner that night. I had them on the counter ready to warm up and had to leave the kitchen for a minute. My husband passed through and left the door between the kitchen and family room (where the dog was) open. Cabbie is a hunting dog, and has a very good nose! I came back to the kitchen to find him finishing off the last meatball. I guess that just goes to show, always follow your instincts.....I should have had those meatballs for lunch!

C De Melo (author) on August 18, 2011:

Bravissima! Karen, you put a big smile on my face! Thanks for the meatball update and I am so happy that they turned out well. Most of my recipes are very simple. I believe that if you use fresh, high quality ingredients, you don't need much else.

I will try the mortadella and browning them the next time I make meatballs since it worked so well for you :)

Karen Migliori on August 17, 2011:

Thanks for the great recipe! The meatballs were the best I've ever made or eaten. Even better, it's an easy dish to prepare. To get an objective opinion, I invited our friend whose favorite meal is meatballs. He couldn't stop raving about the flavor of both the meatballs and the sauce, and their simplicity. He particularly liked the texture of the meatballs. I used Mama's tip and added the mortadella and browned them.

I had just recently received my first order of pasta from Conti's and used the Campofilone linguine with this dish. Although my husband didn't know that I used a different brand than I usually do, he did comment on how good the noodles were and wanted to know what brand I had used. Another winner!

C De Melo (author) on August 10, 2011:

Arlene, reading your comment made me smile. Glad that the recipe worked well (you are so welcome!) thanks for the report :)

Arlene V. Poma on August 08, 2011:

Karen: I will not live in an area where I can't grow tomatoes! Lucky us!

REALfoodie: I tried your recipe today. Not only was it easy to prepare, it was very, very delicious. I used fresh basil from my garden and added that last. I went to the Farmer's Market for tomatoes to go with the ones from my garden. All these years, I've always packed my meatballs for my spaghetti. Not anymore. Your way--loosely packing the meatballs is so much better. And more moist. Thank you!

C De Melo (author) on August 08, 2011:

Ok, everyone...let me know how it comes out! Glad that you liked the recipe. It makes me so happy to be able to contribute something to others :)

Here in Tuscany, they have a philosophy about food: Keep the ingredients fresh and high quality and the recipe simple. Some of the most popular meals are not complicated. I try to incorporate that in my meals, too!

Karen Migliori on August 07, 2011: your message of FB and came right over here to copy the recipe! I have fresh basil in my garden and a friend called as I was typing this and has tomatoes for me from hers. You bet I'll be making this tonight. Thanks

Arlene, I'm in Stockton and you're right about the tomato harvest in our Central Valley. I was at the farmer's market this morning and saw every kind of tomato under the sun!

Jill Spencer from United States on August 07, 2011:

Sounds great! Thanks for the recipes--and the reading recommendation. Delightful.

Arlene V. Poma on August 07, 2011:

Who wouldn't enjoy a recipe like this? I grow my own basil, but I have yet to try making my own pasta. This recipe is an excellent way for me to advantage of the tomato harvest right here in Sacramento, California. Thank you, REALfoodie, for a wonderful article. I will be thinking about you and Florence as I serve this up!

Related Articles