Who makes the best meatball may be a never ending debate, but Italians agree the savory staple is a pillar of Sunday family dinner. Bring the tradition home with a simple yet succulent fried meatball recipe, complete with a beefy Sunday sauce and crisp side salad

by Chef Steven Botta


There are two things in Italian American cooking that cause people to argue and passionately more than anything. One is sauce versus gravy, and the other is who makes the best meat balls. Growing up in an Italian American home, Sunday was always a big event, because it was the day for Sunday family dinner. The meal consisted of Sunday sauce (in my house we called it gravy) and the meat: fried meatballs, beef braciola, sausage, and pork ribs. Next in line was the pasta (for us, macaroni), which was coated with the gravy (sauce) that slowly cooked for hours, imparting all the flavor from the meat into the sauce to give it that savory, delicious zest, as opposed to marinara which boasts similar ingredients, but simply can’t compare.


2 lbs ground beef

½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Nicole Spread

½ cup grated Parmigiana

Reggiano or Grana Padana

½ cup roasted garlic

2 eggs

1 tbsp kosher salt

½ cup chopped parsley

2 pieces white bread, no crust, or the inside of Italian bread


Mix the bread in a bowl with milk and let soak. Put the ground beef in a mixing bowl and form a well in the center. Add all the above ingredients to the well, then take the bread, squeeze out most of the milk, and add to the bowl. Stir all the ingredients until everything is mixed thoroughly, but don’t over mix because that will make your meatballs hard. Form the meat into balls (I make them about 8 oz in my restaurants, but at home, 5 oz is a good size). As a reference, my meatballs are about the size of a baseball, but at home strive to size them like a tennis ball. To fry the meatballs, add three cups of vegetable oil in a sauté pan and heat over medium heat. Add the raw balls to the pan without overcrowding. As each side browns, roll them over with a spoon until cooked on all sides. Place them on a dish lined with a paper towel and let them rest until cooled. Add them to the sauce or merely enjoy them plain.



6 cans whole tomato

1 can tomato paste

1 cup roasted garlic

2 cups red onion (diced)

1.5 cups of red wine

1 small bunch of basil (about 15 leaves)

4 beef braciola

4 sausages (hot or sweet)

½ rack pork ribs (about 8)

1 piece of pork skin, rolled and tied


In a stock pot, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot. When it starts to sizzle, add the braciola, sausage, ribs, and pork skin. Brown the meat on all sides and remove from the pot; set aside. Add additional oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Add onions and sauté until soft. Then add the roasted garlic, tomato paste, and the red wine. Stir until combined. Add the whole plum tomatoes with half of their juice. Mash tomatoes with either a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the basil, then take the meat that was set aside and add it to the pot. Simmer on low fl ame for about 3 4 hours, but stir frequently so the sauce doesn’t stick. When done, take out the meat and set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tbsp salt to the water. When pasta is ready, (heat 8 9 minutes for al dente) strain water from the pot. Spoon enough gravy to coat the pasta, but not drown it. Serve the meat, including meatballs, on a platter. Serve the macaroni on another platter and with extra gravy on the side.


Fresh and crisp, a lightly dressed field of greens is the holy meatball’s perfect sidekick.


1 head of iceberg lettuce

1 cucumber (sliced)

1 red onion (julienned)

½ head radicchio (chopped)

½ head of chicory (chopped)

2 tomatoes, cut into wedges

¾ cup olive oil

⅛ cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp oregano

2 tsp Parmigiana Reggiano

½ tsp kosher salt


Combine all vegetables in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and salt; mix thoroughly. Pour over the salad, add the Parmigiana Reggiano, and toss thoroughly.

Steven Botta

Executive Chef/Owner

Brando’s Citi Cucina / Osteria Cucina Rustica

Feast Italian Kitchen / Beach Tavern / Osteria Molo