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The Best Meatballs Ever

Mom's meatballs. The secret ingredient: stale bread soaked in milk.

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Who doesn’t want to come home after a long day at work to a hearty, delicious homecooked meal ready at the table? My mom’s visiting from Italy, so that’s exactly what’s happening in our household these days. And I’m not complaining.

Last night she made her famous meatballs (well, at least in our family). They’re the simplest thing ever. Forget three types of ground meat. All it takes her is good quality ground beef, eggs, good grated Parmigiano, salt and pepper, and a little grated nutmeg. She does have a secret ingredient, though: a little stale bread soaked in milk, squeezed, and finely chopped. It makes the meatballs incredibly moist and tender. And then there’s the Cognac. She browns the meatballs in olive oil and deglazes the pan with Cognac before adding chopped tomatoes (canned San Marzano’s are great) to make the sauce. The meatballs simmer in the tomato sauce for a good long while and get even more melt-in-your mouth tender.

I make mom’s meatballs all the time, but I’ve gotta tell you: somehow they taste better when she makes them and they’re waiting for me on the plate—piping hot and delicious.

If you have a favorite meatball recipe (your mom’s or an adaptation of someone else’s), please share it with us.

Update: A few of you have asked for my mom’s recipe, but the truth is, like a lot of great cooks, she just doesn’t cook that way. She works her meatballs up from memory, consulting only her senses as she goes (when I make them, I do the same).

I do have recipes to share though, and these, like mom’s, are tried and true:

Spaghetti and Meatballs Spicy Meatballs
It’s not mom’s, but it’s a true classic from the Fine Cooking archive: Spaghetti and Meatballs.   And, for those of you who like meatballs with a kick: Spicy Meatballs with Fragrant Tomato Sauce.


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  • OldChef69 | 11/22/2018

    using bread soaked in milk is an old ,time tested method for making tender meatballs, it actually has a name, It's called a panade , your Mom was a very good cook.

  • SharonCataldo | 09/08/2013

    Can I ask how much bread and milk soaked for 2 pounds of ground beef? I don't see a recipe here.

  • SharonCataldo | 09/08/2013

    I will try the soaked bread instead of bread crumbs. My meatballs are tasty, but a little on the hard side. I only use good beef, not a pork fan. I'm trying to perfect a recipe for our little cafe we plan to open soon.
    Thank you,

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