Food for the Soul: My Nonna’s Meatballs



These meatballs are based on my Nonna’s recipe and are one of my girls favourite meals. For me growing up with an Italian mama, meant every Sunday night was pasta & meatballs and ricotta balls (I’ll share the recipe for these delicious vegetarian option soon). It is also a wonderfully nutritious meal for growing bodies.

This is a great recipe to make a double batch and pop in the freezer for a night off cooking. I also use this recipe to add in some offal to make these like mini multi vitamins. I like to use Organic beef heart, calf liver or chicken livers – grating a portion of these from frozen into the final mixture before cooking.

from the pantry

500 g of organic beef mince

1 brown onion

2 eggs (if you are not adding many breadcrumbs begin with 1 egg and see how the consistency goes) 

100 grams of grated parmesan cheese (+ parmasen rind)

500 ml bottle of tomato passata

250 mls diced tomatoes

fresh sourdough breadcrumbs – whatever amount suits you (I usually add about 1-2 cups)

a few stalks of basil leaves

1/2 bunch of parsley

extra virgin olive oil (cold pressed)

optional – any offal. If using organic chicken or calves livers I keep this in the freezer, and simply take out and grate it frozen into the mixture before rolling into balls.

let’s begin
Begin by preparing the sauce

Add tomato passata & diced/ crushed tomatoes to a saucepan. My nonna taught me to add a far bit of water or bone broth to this to thin down the sauce. I probably add almost double the amount of broth to sauce. Add in some basil leaves, sea salt to taste and allow to simmer for as long as you have. Anywhere from a few hours or just 20 minutes (if that’s all the time you have).

Now onto the meatballs

Make the breadcrumbs. I use stale spelt sourdough and wiz it up in the thermomix/ food processor. Don’t dry them out in the oven as you want them to be soft.

Next remove the bread crumbs from the food processor and cut the parmesan into smaller pieces, removing rind (I add the rind into the cooking sauce for flavour). Process until fine. Alternatively you can hand grate the parmesan.

Finely diced the onion and gently simmer in a tablespoon or so for coconut oil in a frypan until translucent. Set aside to cool slightly.

Combine the beef mince, eggs, parsley, breadcrumbs, parmesan and cooked onion in a large bowl. Season with sea salt and pepper. My nonna would taste them at this point (yep raw and all……I don’t as I don’t mince my own meat like she does). Make sure you combine everything really well. Adjust the breadcrumbs and egg to reach desired consistency which is not too sloppy and not too dry – you want them to hold together nicely.

It’s time to get your little helpers into the kitchen or at the dining table to begin rolling. Roll into balls and gently pop into the sauce pot gently simmering away. Never stir them, instead gently agitate the pot back and forth using the handle. Fill the pot of sauce right up with meatballs ensuring they are totally covered.

Simmer for at least 20 minutes with lid on until meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with lots of the saucey broth, a good glug of olive oil and lots of parmesan cheese.

kitchen notes

:: Taste the sauce once it has been cooking for say 20 minutes and adjust salt accordingly. If it is too acid, add one teaspoon of sugar to balance out the acidity.  I find with the addition of bone broth the sauce has a lovely flavour and no sugar needed.

I really hope you enjoy these.

Love Nat xx

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  1. Arzu on September 1, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Yum! How beautiful to have recipes from the elders in your family. That’s something I hope to pass on to my boys, who already love cooking. Really looking forward to trying this though may have to break with tradition and use a different meat. We don’t eat beef. Freezing half a batch (I like that idea I must say!) can i refreeze the grated offal? Im a recently converted vego so have a lot to learn.

  2. Ash on September 2, 2016 at 8:18 am

    You mention eggs, but I don’t see the amount in the list of ingredients. Can you update please! Wanna make sure I have it written down accurately.

    • Natalie Trusler on September 21, 2016 at 11:23 am

      Thanks for noticing Ash – I’ve updated now. Natalie x

  3. Sarah Noked on September 22, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    This looks soooo yummy! Can’t wait to try this!

  4. Amy on November 11, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    This looks so delicious! But what do you do with the onion? Does it go in the sauce or the meatballs?

    • Natalie Trusler on December 30, 2019 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks Amy – oops!! I’ve just updated the recipe.

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Hi I’m Natalie,

I teach mothers to hand-sew treasures for a magical childhood while delighting their own creative spirit!

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