Polpetta (Meatballs)

When I was a child, growing up in the Anthracite Coal Region, “vacation” was a rare event, certainly  not something that was guaranteed to happen annually. The budget was tight and my Dad’s work demanded he put in long hours in the summer. When a vacation opportunity did present itself, we did as many people in the Coal Region did; we went “down the shore” — Jersey shore that is — Wildwood, NJ in particular.

Wildwood, NJ – Spent many a summer here, riding rental bikes on the boardwalk in the morning, enjoying the amusement rides on the piers in the evening.

I loved the shore.  Wildwood had a lot of amusements and rides for the entire family and my Dad and I had a ritual — we would rent a tandem bike and ride on the boardwalk in the early morning sometimes veering off and exploring the streets of town.

To save money when we did go to the shore, we stayed in a big, old Victorian house in which there were several rooms for rent and two efficiency apartments. We stayed in an apartment and made our own meals except for an occasional dinner out.

One year, we got particularly lucky. My dad, who was stationed in Italy during WWII and remembered a bit of the Italian language he had picked up, came in and announced he had “made some new friends” in the apartment underneath us — a family of post-war Italian immigrants.

Seems Dad and the husband in the family staying there struck up a conversation — in Italian.  Dad admitted he fumbled his way through, but was proficient enough to share some memories, have a few laughs, and it wound up with us being invited to dinner with these lovely folks!

I was (am still am…) fussy about tomato and pasta sauces.  But I was even more particular about meatballs.  I detested big, tough, over-worked, over-cooked, weirdly seasoned blobs lying on top of my pasta. So, I figured, “Maybe I’ll like the sauce.” (which I LOVED) and I will just act like I am eating the meatballs.  But somewhere along the way, a little bit of meatball found its way onto my fork and the clouds parted and the angels sang! Sized just right, moist, tender, flavorful… I begged my Mom to ask for the recipe.  It has been in my recipe collection ever since and it is my favorite meatball.  Ever.

Grazie amici miei italiani” (Thank you my Italian friends.) NOTE: Use good quality cheese, not that saw-dust like stuff in a can from the grocery store shelf.

Polpetta (Meatballs)

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: Appetizer, EntreeCuisine: Italian, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy


  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef

  • 1/2 pound ground pork

  • 1/2 pound ground veal

  • 2 egg, beaten

  • 1 cup torn day old Italian bread soaked in 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

  • 2 or 3 medium cloves very finely chopped garlic

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

  • OPTIONAL Fresh or dried bread crumbs as needed for rolling.


  • Squeeze excess milk from bread.
  • Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Be gentle and do not over-mix.
  • Shape into ping pong or golf balls sized balls and roll lightly in bread crumbs, if desired.
  • Brown well in frying pan with olive oil and add to your tomato sauce.
  • Let finish cooking by simmering in sauce.


  • Use good quality cheese, not that saw-dust like stuff in a can from the grocery store shelf.