Fabio’s Grandmother’s Meatballs (Le Polpette della Nonna di Fabio)

I had invited some Italian friends from Amsterdam for dinner. I thought it would be nice to cook something for them that their grandmother used to cook for them, something that they had fond memories of. My friend Fabio said his grandmother always made meatballs that were outstanding with a bit of lemon. This post is the result of my attempt to make Fabio’s grandmother’s meatballs, without having the actual recipe. Fabio liked them a lot and he was taking lots of pictures. When we were pestering him about taking so many pictures, he said he was going to send them to his grandmother. For the next attempt, we should probably just ask her for the recipe… Whether or not they were close to her original, they were great anyway. Here’s what I did…


For 4-6 servings

600 grams (1.3 lbs) ground veal

grated zest and juice of 1 untreated lemon

2 eggs

2 Tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley

2 cloves garlic

4 Tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

2 Tbsp freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

salt to taste

flour for dusting the meatballs

60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine

olive oil


Remember to zest the lemon before juicing it.

Put the ground veal, eggs, parsley, breadcrumbs, parmigiano, grated zest, and salt into a bowl.

Mix well with your hands.

Take a bit of the mixture and fry it to taste for salt. Add more salt if needed.

Make meatballs with your hands, about 4-5 cm (1 1/2 – 2 inches) and dust them with flour.

Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the garlic cloves.

Add the meatballs.

Brown them on all sides over high heat, about 4 minutes.

As soon as they are browned, add the wine.

Add the lemon juice as well.

Cook over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated and the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Serve them hot with a green salad and/or grilled vegetables.

Wine pairing

The white meat and lemon juice ask for a full-bodied dry Italian white wine. We liked it with a 2009 Greco di Tufo from Pietracupa.

19 thoughts on “Fabio’s Grandmother’s Meatballs (Le Polpette della Nonna di Fabio)

  1. Very nicely done and I like the presentation as well. I was thinking that a combo of beef and pork in one ratio or another would do nicely for those who can’t get veal (eg: me) … and I think I might try just a tiny touch of sage to complement the lemon ๐Ÿ™‚


      1. In fact thats what Swedish meatballs are made of, though the ration is more like 2:1 beef to pork. My swedish partner insisted i work out how to cook them so she could feel at home :).

        The recipe I;ve used for the swedisdh type soaks the breadcumbs in milk, which seems to give a very light flavour. They also use a lot of Dijon mustard rather than the parmesan and lemon. Otherwise quire similar.


  2. I’ve never seen lemon as an ingredient in meatballs, but I’m thinking it really adds something that probably isn’t easily discerned in the final result. I enjoy serving something with a little added surprise; a different taste note. I do hope at some point you get that recipe. It would be so fun to know how close you got. The taking photographs for his grandmother made me laugh. Not sure that one meatball looks terribly different from another. ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. These sound delicious, Stefan, and would fit well into my family’s recipe index. Whether these meatballs closely approximate the recipe of Fabio’s Nonna, you really cannot lose. If they do match her recipe, fantastic. If they do not, you’ll end up with 2 great meatball recipes. A win-win if ever there was one.


    1. Thanks John. I should also try to make a Bartolini version, even though there isn’t really a family recipe I think I can extrapolate from other recipes of yours ๐Ÿ™‚


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