polpette al sugo

The witch’s meatballs with tomato sauce


You might be asking ‘Who is the witch?’.

“The Witch” is the tender nickname I gave to my mother-in-law.

In Italy, we say that the more you love your mother-in-law, the more you insult her. And that’s right!

Her name is Giuseppina and her recipe for meatballs does not allow any “light” version: this is a strong one. You cannot ask for the consultation of a dietician, but I’m sure that your papilla demands one more meatball like these after you’ve tasted them for the first time.

Getting ready to make meatballs with tomato sauce

First of all, you have to wash your hands, and cut your nails if you’ve just had your American manicure done: no excuses, there’s no time to lose. My mother-in-law is quick because deep inside she doesn’t like cooking. If she does it quickly, she’ll have more time to play cards.

My mother-in-law is an exception: she manages to prepare delicious dishes even if they lack a fundamental ingredient: passion.

She never ever uses less than half a kilo of mincemeat (or ground meat) to make more than a kilo of meatballs by adding everything else.

And they are good, oh, are they good.

She fries the meatballs only if local extra virgin olive oil is available, possibly the one processed by her husband. Another oil would be like poison for her. After she fries the meatballs, she slightly dries them with paper towels before making them jump into the tomato sauce.


Of course, the tomato sauce has to be homemade, too. Any other tomato sauce would also be like poison to her. The tomato sauce gives umami to the meatballs, or what I call “super umami”.
It’s quintessential, when you taste it you will be over the moon.

You will be wanting for more meatballs

Their taste is powerful, overflowing.

The aftertaste is intrusive, memorable.

You cannot avoid going for a “scarpetta”: when you take a slice of bread and you clean your plate without wasting a single drop of sauce. As soon as the last bite is over, you are already thinking of the next time you will get the chance to eat these meatballs again.

Italian meatballs with tomato sauce



(FOR 3 PEOPLE according to my mother in law, for a platoon according to me)

  • 1 kg mincemeat /ground meat (half beef, half pork)
  • 300gr breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 handful of grated caciocavallo cheese (or parmesan)
  • half an onion
  • half a liter of tomato sauce
  • water, salt, and pepper to taste
  • olive oil to fry


Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl pouring some water to let them grow and become soft.
Add the meat, the handful of cheese, salt and pepper.
Mix everything together and shape the batter into a ball: as I said before, you don’t need to like it, you don’t need to be passionate about cooking, you can do it as fast as you can.
Divide the meat in smaller balls and place them on a plate in a circular way.
Take a frying pan and pour extra virgin olive oil into it: fry the meatballs and place them in a bowl covered with paper towels to let them dry a little bit.
In the meantime, dice the onion, add a splash of olive oil and start preparing the tomato sauce. Once it starts to boil add the meatballs and let them simmer for at least ten minutes.

Enjoy getting dirty, like a kid till the last bite, mopping up your plate with bread.

Buon appetito!

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Pier Paolo Vecchi
Pier Paolo Vecchi
Articles: 25

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