Italian Fried Meatballs, also known as “polpette fritte”, are a much loved staple in homes all over Italy and beyond.
The secret is using a combination of ground beef and pork along with various other flavorings to create the ultimate comfort food that takes you right back to your childhood. Don’t wait any longer, gather your ingredients and make my Fried Meatball recipe today!
In my childhood home, we had "polpette fritte" at least once a week. Whether cooked in a rich tomato sauce in winter or served as is with a salad in summer, fried meatballs made a regular appearance on the table. Very soon, I learnt to make them by my dad’s side.
I’ve now adapted the recipe and it has evolved over the years but these fried meatballs are still just as irresistible and tantilizing as ever. Flavored with parsley, garlic and parmesan cheese means that these Italian meatballs are an instant hit with everyone at the table.
Why you’ll love this Fried Meatballs recipe.
- The flavor is incredible! The combination of ground beef and pork along with tasty Italian herbs and cheese means that these meatballs make your tastebuds sing!
- These fried meatballs are tender inside and slightly crisp on the outside creating the most satisfying texture and appeal.
- You can serve these as a main meal, appetizer or a snack. Just like most Italians, you’ll discover the versatility of a flavorful fried meatball. As my family did, these can be added to a tomato sauce, dipped into basil pesto or sandwiched between slices of bread. Of course, there are so many more ways to serve Italian meatballs, these are just a few.
- What meal could be more convenient? Make a batch of these easy fried meatballs ahead of time and store them in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container. You’ll have a quick midweek meal on the table in minutes.
- When you’re looking for a guaranteed crowd pleaser, you can’t go past these Fried Meatballs. Adults and children alike will go mad for these, so be prepared!
So don’t hesitate. Follow my recipe for golden brown, pan fried meatballs that are juicy and succulent and will have everyone asking for seconds!
For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.
- Bread - at least day old bread is best in this recipe. Just remove the crusts, you only need the soft, inner part of the bread.
- Milk - use whole, skim or plant based milk, all will still work. In fact, sometimes I replace the milk with water. My family preferred using only eggs to moisten the bread crumbs but I like a bit of both egg and milk.
- Ground beef - avoid very lean ground beef. Meatballs need a bit of fat to keep them succulent.
- Ground pork - again you’re looking for ground pork with all the fat in it for the juiciest meatballs.
- Eggs - I like free range but use whatever you have.
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese - also known as Parmesan cheese. I usually grate my own and this is what I recomend you do. Buy a block and grate it yourself. It’s a little extra step that goes a long way. The cheese will keep for longer when purchased as a block, you know that it’s just Parmesan cheese with no nasty additives plus it’s more economical.
- Fresh parsley - easily available at supermarkets. Use the Italian or continental parsley or the curly leaf. Don’t substitute dried parsley - it has absolutely no taste!
- Salt and black pepper - just use whatever you have. Be sure to replenish spices such as pepper regularly as they lose their flavor.
- Dry breadcrumbs - store bought dry bread crumbs are fine. Alternatively you may have started making my Italian bread crumbs - they’ll be perfect for this recipe. Remember, you can make a big batch and keep them in the freezer like I do.
- Olive oil - regular or light (in flavor) olive oil is fine. You can also use peanut or sunflower seed oil if that’s all you have.
See recipe card for quantities.
Break the bread up into small pieces with your fingers. Soak bread in milk and squeeze it out.
In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, squeezed-out bread, Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, minced garlic, salt and black pepper. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Take a small portion of the dough, roll it between your hands to form a ball then roll it lightly in the breadcrumbs.
Fry the meatball in hot oil for 4-5 minutes. Keep turning and cooking the meatballs so that they brown on all sides.
Drain the Fried Meatballs with the help of a slotted spoon and place them on a sheet of absorbent paper to remove the excess oil. Serve immediately while still hot.
Hint: Take extra care when shallow frying in hot oil. Use a skillet or frying pan and fill with ½ inch (a bit more than 1cm) of olive oil. Heat the oil over medium heat. It won’t take long to come to the right temperature. To test, if the oil is hot enough, drop in a small piece of bread (just as big as your thumbnail). It should sizzle and rise to the surface. If the bread, only has a few bubbles and sinks, wait a little longer before trying again. Never leave hot oil unattended!
- Ground meat - instead of beef and pork, you can use all beef or all pork. You can also use other ground meats like chicken or turkey. Sometimes, I like to use a combination of ground leftover roast meat with the raw meat.
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese - use finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese instead of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (Parmesan cheese).
- Fresh garlic - substitute minced garlic in a jar or powdered garlic for the fresh garlic.
- Gluten free - use gluten free bread and bread crumbs to make gluten free fried meatballs.
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes to the ground meat mixture to give the meatballs a bit of spicy heat.
- Cheese stuffed meatballs - wrap a small cube of provolone or mozzarella cheese in the ground meat mixture and completely enclosing in the meat. Fry according to the recipe.
If you love this recipe, be sure to make my Sausage Meatballs too!
To make these Fried Meatballs, you’ll need a skillet or frying pan with sides high enough that the oil doesn’t spill over when the meatballs are added.
Store these Fried Meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Alternatively, they can be frozen for 2-3 months. To serve, thaw and heat thoroughly in the microwave.
I like to use ground meat that isn’t too lean to ensure the best balance of flavor and texture. This is important whether you use ground beef and pork as I do or if you use chicken or turkey.
Squeeze out excess milk from the soaked bread before adding it to the meat. The soaked bread will add moisture and tenderness to the meatballs and help bind the meat together.
Because this is a simple recipe, it’s important to not skimp on the flavorings. These meatballs need to be seasoned well with enough cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.
Refrigerating the meat mixture will make forming the balls easier. Then fry in hot oil, turning the meatballs in the oil so they brown evenly on all sides. Pay attention to the temperature of the oil. If the meatballs are browning too quickly turn the temperature down. Likewise, if the frying slows, turn the temperature up.
These meatballs can be baked if you want to reduce oil intake. However, I prefer to pan fry these meatballs giving them an even golden brown, caramelized exterior. Draining the meatballs after frying on kitchen paper will remove any excess oil.
Actually, even deep fried meatballs aren’t too fatty if the oil is hot enough so that the exterior seals quickly preventing the oil from seeping in.
Firstly, I recommend that you refrigerate the ground meat mixture before rolling the balls. This allows the meat to chill completely and become a little firmer so that the balls hold their shape better. Then take small portions of the chilled ground meat mixture and roll balls between your palms.
Don’t let the raw meatballs sit for long or they’ll become flat on the side they’re sitting. Fry in hot oil turning regularly so they stay round and brown evenly.
Fried Italian meatballs are called “polpette fritte” and a much loved all over Italy.
Italian Fried Meatballs are ideal served with my San Marzano Tomato Sauce and slices of my Semolina Bread to mop up the juices and sauce.
However, these meatballs are not limited to serving with just tomato sauce. Stir small fried meatballs into Pasta al Forno before baking. Sides like Mashed Potatoes with red skin, Green Bean Salad, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots all pair perfectly with these succulent Fried Meatballs.
Made this recipe?
Let me know if you liked it by leaving a ★★★★★ star rating and a review below. Please share a photo of your creation by tagging me on Instagram @marcellina.in.cucina!
Fried Meatballs Recipe
- 2 ½ ounces (70 grams) day old bread crusts removed and broken into small pieces
- ½ cup (120mls) milk
- 10 ounces (285 grams) ground beef See Note 1
- 7 ounces (200 grams) ground pork See Note 1
- 2 eggs
- 2 ounces (60 grams) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup fine dry breadcrumbs for coating
- 1 cup (240mls) light olive oil to shallow fry
- Soak crumbled bread in the milk. Leave it for a few minutes then squeeze out the milk and use a fork to break up the bread.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, squeezed out bread, Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, minced garlic, salt and black pepper. If too stiff, add milk.
- Form the meatballs: take a small portion of the meat mixture about the size of a small walnut, shape it between your hands and roll them lightly in the breadcrumbs.
- Fry the meatball in hot oil for 4-5 minutes. Keep turning the meatballs so that they brown on all sides.
- Drain them with the help of a slotted spoon and place them on a sheet of absorbent paper to remove the excess oil. Serve immediately while still hot.
- Use ground meat that's not too lean. You need fat in the meat to make succulent meatballs. Any combination of ground meat can be used eg pork, veal, beef, chicken or turkey. The total quantity should add up to about 1 pound or 450 grams but a little bit more won't make huge difference
- Squeeze out excess milk from the soaked bread before adding it to the meat.
- Don't leave the salt out or the meatballs will be bland.
Refrigerating the meat mixture will make forming the balls easier.
- Keep turning in the hot oil so that the meatballs brown evenly.
- If you make meatballs larger than specified in the recipe, be sure to lower the oil temperature to ensure meatballs cook all the way through.
Nutritional Information Per Serving
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
Just made the Meatballs. Really delicious. I used basil instead of parsley. If you follow directions closely like me step 2 leaves out the eggs so be sure to mix them in. Also watch the oil temperature and the size of the meatballs. The recipe uses 35 meatballs so watch the size too. I got around 18 so mine were probably too large to cook through and I had to bake them at 350 to get them up to 160 degrees. All in all a great meatball. Also highly recommend Marcellina's San Marzano sauce as close to perfect as it gets.
Great points, Raymond! Yes, these are rather small meatballs - appetizers size, actually. So it is critical to watch the temperature of the oil depending on the size of the meatballs.Thank you for your comment!
perfect on top of spaghetti! so good!
Loved this method of soaking the bread first. Will definitely do that from now on! So tasty.
These meatballs have so much flavor all by themselves. Who needs sauce!! We love these.
These were amazing! I pan-fried them and everyone loved these on game day! I'll be making these again soon.
These are ideal for game day, Emily!
This is how I make mine, we love them! I usually cook extra and freeze for a night when I am in a hurry or running late.