Pork and beef Italian meatballs in tomato sauce, Polpette al sugo. Moist, tender morsels of mixed ground pork and beef, packed with tons of flavor, slow-cooked in a rich tomato sauce. These will have your taste buds singing for sure!
If you love meatballs, then this recipe is for you. In our home growing up, my parents would be making all kinds of tomato sauces or sugo, as we call it in Italian. Variations like straight tomato basil, tomato with carrots and onions, bolognese, and one of my all time favorites with sausages stewing inside. There were always battles for the sausages.
My parents's "sugo with polpette" (meatballs laid to rest in a thick rich tomato sauce) was stewed ever so slowly for hours. I have mentioned this before about getting to the bottom of the saucepan and scooping that rich pulp and slathering it on a piece of pagnotta (Italian rustic bread). Sometimes a meatball would just happen to fall into the spoon, s___t happens right? Now that's being Italian, so good I would have a few of these what I called "sauce sandwiches", absolutely amazing, you have to try it.
Italian cooking 101
I know when we think Italian, spaghetti and meatballs come to mind, but in true traditional Italian cooking, it is not the norm. The spaghetti is served with just the sauce, and after that is consumed, then comes the next course, meatballs with some side dish.
Actually, the order of plates in an Italian household would go something like this: Antipasto (appetizer), Primo (first course) which is usually pasta or minestra (soup). Then Secondo (second course) consisting of some kind of meat or fish accompanied by a Contorno (side dish) being cooked vegetables or salads. Then finally Dolce (sweets) and Frutta (fruits) and the finish, a robust espresso. It is always a feast and a great social experience. Just thought I would share that with you!
Ingredients for Pork and beef Italian meatballs in tomato sauce
These are the key ingredients in making the most tender and tasty Italian meatballs!
For the meatballs:
- Ground beef from grass fed cows
- Ground pork
- Crushed garlic
- Freshly grated Parmigiano
- Milk soaked bread (the crumb, not the crust)
- Italian style breadcrumbs
- Fresh parsley
- Dried oregano
- Salt and pepper
For the Tomato sauce:
- Canned San Marzano Tomatoes
- A jar of Passata
- Fresh basil
- Evo oil
- Chili flakes
- Salt and pepper
Gather some equipment from the kitchen
This is what we will need from the kitchen cupboards and drawers:
- Small bowls for ingredients
- A large bowl to mix the meatballs
- A Dutch oven or oven safe dish
- A cookie scoop
- Parchment paper
- Baking sheet
- Serving dish
- Pot for making sauce
- Wooden spoon
Making of the sauce and meatball mixture
It may seem complicated, however it really isn't. Let's get into our kitchens and I will show you just how easy it is! Here are the steps:
- Firstly we need to get our sauce going. In a large oval Dutch oven or sauce pot, drizzle in olive oil. Toss in chili flakes and press the garlic and throw it in too. Move those things around the oil then turn the heat to a medium setting.
- Secondly, once the garlic starts to sizzle, add your tomatoes which you have hand crushed. Pour in the passata, give it a good stir. Season with salt and pepper, turn heat down a bit and let simmer. Stir from time to time so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Our sauce usually cooks for half an hour partially covered. Then turn it off and place the cover on.
- Thirdly, while the sauce is simmering, time to make the meatballs. Place all your ground beef and pork in a bowl. Break it up a bit with a spoon or your hand. Add the parsley and egg. Now throw in the garlic, mortadella, breadcrumbs, milk soaked bread, Parmigiano, and just a pinch of salt and pepper
- Either with a spoon or your hand which I like to use, of course after washing them well, get into the mix and blend all the ingredients until they are well incorporated and uniform throughout the mixture. Place in the fridge.
Tips for the best Pork and beef Italian meatballs in tomato sauce
From years of making meatballs and observing my mom and dad, there are a few things I have learned along the way that I would love to share with you. It goes something like this:
- To make your meatballs moist and tender, take some day old bread white or whole wheat. Take all the inside crumb and break it into small morsels, then place it in a bowl of milk to soak. Squeeze the excess milk out and mix it into your meat.
- I think we all want to have uniform same sized meatballs. A great gadget is the cookie scoop. You can get it in various sizes, I like my meatballs not too big so went for a small to medium scoop. The release mechanism works well in releasing the ball of meat into your hand.
- To elevate the flavor of the meatball, I like to add minced mortadella, it just melts in the mix and boy does it make these Pork and beef Italian Meatballs in tomato sauce delicious!
- One more tip. We add our basil to the cooking tomato sauce at the end. When basil cooks too long it becomes bitter. Adding it at just about the end, releases that sweetness into the sauce.
Forming the meatballs
As a child I would love to help my parents form the meatballs. There is something so gratifying having that morsel in your palms and forming it into a lovely ball. Here is how it is done:
- First, grab your mixture out of the fridge, take the cookie scoop and fill it with the meat mixture.
- Release the meat into the palm of your hand and using circular motions, form the morsel of meat into a ball.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place the meatballs on top. Continue this until you have used up all the meat.
Let the sauce do the work for these Pork and beef Italian meatballs in tomato sauce
There has always been some controversy about how to do your meatballs in tomato sauce. Do you brown them first? Or do you drop them into the sauce? Today I am showing you how I like them, and that is, drum roll please, I drop them into the sauce. I like how moist and tender they end up being and how that sauce just flavors the meatball in such an elevated way. Truly I don't like to argue, I have tried both ways and enjoy them a lot. In the end, I believe to agree to disagree, what about you?
Now that all the meatballs are nestled in the sauce we turn the heat very low and let that simmer until meatballs are done!
Oh my God
I am just salivating. The aroma in the house is absolutely amazing. I love that smell of sauce cooking and all those lovely ingredients wafting in the air. I just might grab some bread and give the sauce a taste. After all, we need to see if the seasoning is on point. Guess what, it really is!
Time to taste these heavenly little morsels of love
The first thing you experience is the luxuriousness of the meatballs. So soft, moist and tender. Just plain melt in your mouth! The flavor is outstanding. The beef with its bold richness and combined with the sweetness of the pork is a match made in heaven. I love the parsley, that hit of black pepper, and the Parmigiano, which just delights the tongue! Oooh and that sauce so sweet and rich, I am in love!
- Serve them as a main, with the side of your choice and some bread to soak up the sauce. As a side, we like a fresh salad, greens, or grilled vegetables.
- Make a nice meatball panino. Cut a long bun, toasted or not, in half, and take a little of the inside crumb out. Then drop some sauce and a few meatballs in. Optional, add bocconcini and arugula, now that's a meatball sandwich!
- Cook some pasta and dress with the sauce and the meatballs on the side.
Happy cooking, buon appetito!Print
For the meatballs:
- 400 g ground pork
- 250 g ground beef
- 100 g mortadella, minced
- ¾ cup Parmigiano, grated
- 1 ¼ cups day-old bread, soaked in milk
- ¼ cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp fresh parsley
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 1 small clove garlic minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
- 1 x 680 ml jar of tomato Passata
- 1 large can San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic, whole, smashed
- 3 Tbsp evo oil
- a pinch of chili flakes
- salt & pepper to taste
- 6 basil leaves
- In a large Dutch oven drizzle in olive oil. Toss in pressed garlic, and a pinch of red chili flakes. Turn heat to a medium setting.
- When garlic starts to sizzle add in San Marzano tomatoes, breaking and crushing them up in your hand then into the pan. Add in the passata, pour a little warm water into the passata jar, swish it around then pour it into the pot, and stir with the wooden spoon.
- Season with salt and pepper, partially cover. Turn het down a bit and give it a stir from time to time to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Now add the broken up basil leaves, another good stir, and take out garlic. Cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off heat, cover and set aside.
- Break up the ground pork and beef in a large bowl .Crack in the egg.
- Add the minced mortadella, parsley, oregano, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
- Mix with your hands blending the ingredients well into the meat.
- Add in the bread soaked in milk (squeeze out excess milk). Mix again with your hands.
- Sprinkle in Parmigiano Reggiano and Italian bread crumbs, a pinch of salt and pepper. Give it a good mix until is well incorporated.
- Use a cookie scoop to spoon the meat and release in your hand.
- Roll meat in a circular motion in between both hands and form into a nice ball. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Repeat until all the meat mixture is used up.
- Take lid off sauce. Drop in all the meatballs making sure to scoop the sauce to cover the meatballs in the sauce. Turn heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until meatballs read 160 degree F.
- Spoon some sauce onto a serving dish, and then place meatballs on top. Spoon some more sauce on top, and garnish with some fresh parsley.
You can do these in the oven. Just do your sauce on the stove top. Pour into an oven safe dish, drop meatballs in, cover, and bake in a 350° F oven for 20-25 minutes or until temp reads 160° F.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes minutes
- Category: Main, Meat
- Method: stove top
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Pork, beef, meatballs, tomato sauce, Italian bread crumbs, oregano, parsley, Cucina Italiana, slow braised,
When I am not cooking, I enjoy playing musical instruments, singing, writing. I have learned over the years to live in gratitude and enjoy the moment.