Italian meatballs in a rich tomato sauce – recipe

Polpette al sugo, or simply “Polpette”, represents a special traditional Italian dish that has firmly embedded itself as a cornerstone of Italian household cuisine.

Every Sunday Italian dedicated ‘nonnas’ prepare generous series of these flavorful meatballs. The beauty of this dish lies in the fact that each nonna has her own unique recipe and a well-honed technique. With enough practice, one can master the art of crafting perfect meatballs, even without recipe.

 Let’s get started on our journey and make the most succulent and tender homemade meatballs.


For the meatballs

For the tomato sauce

  • Olive oil
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (approximately 400g)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Fresh basil for garnish


  1. In a bowl, mix together the minced meat, the egg, the breadcrumbs (or bread), the grated cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir well until you achieve a homogeneous mixture.
  2. Shape the mixture into uniform-sized meatballs and set them aside (large or small, as you prefer!).
  3. In a large frying pan, heat some olive oil and add the chopped onion. Cook the onion until it becomes translucent.
  4. Add the tomato sauce to the pan. Add a teaspoon of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in another pan, brown the meatballs in a bit of olive oil until they are well-cooked and golden on all sides.
  6. Transfer the meatballs into the tomato sauce in the pan and cook over medium heat for another 15-20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked, and the sauce has thickened slightly.
  7. Serve the meatballs in tomato sauce hot, garnished with fresh basil leaves. Enjoy your meal!

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