Traditional Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

A restaurant favourite known as “Polpette al Sugo”, tender, flavourful meatballs are simmered in a simple tomato sauce to enjoy with toasted garlic bread. Chef Ponzo prefers to use medium ground beef for these meatballs but lean works well, too. This recipe was adapted from Chef Ponzo’s original and modified, as necessary, for home cooks.
Yield 4 Servings Prep. Time 20 min Chill Time 60 min Cooking Time 60 min Total Time 140 min


Here are the following ingredients:


  • 1 cup (250 mL) cubed dried crustless bread (see Tip)
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) milk
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) fresh ground pepper
  • 1 lb (500 g) Medium or Lean Ground Beef
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano (about 2½ oz/75 g)
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil (approx)


  • ¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil
  • Half red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) fresh ground pepper
  • 2 bottles (EACH 680 mL) passata (strained tomatoes) or 5½ cups (1.375 L) canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf

Garlic Bread

  • 4 slices crusty bread
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) garlic butter, at room temperature

Shopping List

Here are the following shopping items to buy:


Follow these cooking methods/directions: 1. Meatballs: Place bread cubes in a large bowl and pour in milk; stir to coat. Let soak for 15 minutes. 2. Sauce: Meanwhile, heat oil over medium heat in a wide sauté pan or deep skillet. Cook onion, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes, pepper and bay leaf. Rinse passata bottles with about ¼ cup (60 mL) water each and pour into pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. 3. Meanwhile, mash soaked bread into small pieces with a fork. Add garlic, parsley, egg, salt and pepper and beat with a fork until blended. Add beef and Parmesan and gently mix in with fork (careful not to over-mix). 4. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls (15 mL) of the meat mixture and roll into about twenty 1½ -inch (4 cm) meatballs. Place on a baking sheet or plate. 5. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Cook meatballs, in batches and turning as needed, until browned all over. Transfer to simmering sauce as they are browned. Add more oil to skillet between batches, as necessary. 6. Spoon sauce over meatballs to cover; simmer in sauce, gently stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until a digital instant-read thermometer inserted sideways into several meatballs reads 160°F (71°C) at the least. 7. Garlic Bread: Just before serving, spread one side of each bread slice with garlic butter. Toast bread, buttered side down, over medium heat in a nonstick skillet for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. 8. Spoon meatballs and sauce into shallow serving bowls and serve with Garlic Bread.