Italian Polpette in Tomato Sauce

Polpette are tender small Italian meatballs that are cooked in a rich tomato sauce. In Italy they are eaten as a second course with potatoes or vegetables or even rice or polenta.

Around the world polpette are eaten with pasta and this makes a lovely and satisfying complete meal when served with a fresh green garden salad.

Polpette are also good for lunch, in a crusty roll, cut in half and covered with some of the sauce and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Italian Polpette in Tomato Sauce

IMG_20160605_125824-Sauce ingredients


Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small knob of butter
  •  large onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tblsp  tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 small whole carrot (to add some sweetness and balance any acidity in the tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3 large basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 Tblsp chicken  or vegetable stock powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 600 g lean minced beef
  • 1/2  medium onion, grated
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup  fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped finely
  • I slice of wholemeal bread torn into pieces and soaked in some milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 2 Tblsp olive oil
  • 1 Tblsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and , freshly ground black pepper
  • Plain flour for dusting


Tomato Sauce:

  1. In a large heavy based saucepan that has a lid, heat the oil and the knob of butter on a medium-low heat
  2. Add the chopped onion and cook till translucent, notherabout 6 minutes
  3. Add the minced garlic, stir through and cook for a minute
  4. Stir through the tomato paste and cook for another minute
  5. Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and water
  7. Stir through the stock powder
  8. Add the parsley, basil, rosemary, bay leaf and stir through.
  9. Add the whole carrot to the sauce
  10. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  11. Cover and simmer for 1 hour adding a little water if the sauce seems to dry out.
  12. The sauce will be ready when it is thickened
  13. Check the seasoning and acidity of the sauce and amend as needed
  14. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the meatballs


  1. Place the minced beef into a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper
  2. Squeeze the milk from the bread until dry and add the bread to the meat mixing it through thoroughly
  3. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, mint, parmesan cheese and mix in with your hands, pressing the mixture to ensure that everything is well incorporated.
  4. Mix in the beaten egg
  5. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and place into the refrigerator for 20 minutes
  6. When rested, place some plain flour into a plastic bag
  7. Remove the meat mixture from the fridge and take tablespoonfuls of the meat, pressing and rolling it into balls the size of a golfball
  8. Place the meat ball into the flour and shake till well covered
  9. Set the meatballs onto a plate
  10. In a large frypan, heat the olive oil and the knob of butter on medium high
  11. Quickly brown the meatballs in batches, on all sides, removing them onto absorbent paperIMG_20170601_190645 (1)-Meatballs browning
  12. When all the meatballs are browned, place them into the tomato sauce spooning sauce over them to cover themIMG_20170601_190849-Meatballs in sauce 3
  13. Cook until the sauce is finishedIMG_20170601_194231-Meatball cookinh
  14. The sauce should be thickened and the meatballs will be tender
  15. Serve with baked potatoes, polenta or rice, or mashed potatoes and vegetables as a second course as they do in ItalyIMG_20170602_135624-Meatballs 2
  16. Or serve with spaghetti or other pasta as has become popular around the world

IMG_20170602_141610-Spaghetti and meatballs



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