Wanted to get help! Taking a survey… Who makes their own meatballs and who gets thim in pre-made? If you make them, do you just use ground beef or do you add pork to it? If you get them pre-made, what brand are they? Thanks

In a previus life, I used USFood house brand with better than decent results. This time I am making my own using beef and sweet Italian sausage (maybe my own house made sausage if that works out), some raw and roasted garlic, sauteed minced onion, chopped fresh parsley, parmesan, whole egg and a penade of milk/fresh breadcrumb. Aiming for maybe 30-35% fat content. Roast off in oven. Will be at least 2oz up to maybe 3oz. Gotta see how it plays.

you should consider just ground pork and not italian sausage. the spices from the sausage will make your meatballs taste like sausage. Spices such as fennel and cumin will own your meatballs. two ingredients not usually found in italian meatballs.

Ah Pakula…don’t discount the great flavor the right blend of sweet Italian sausage can have in your meatballs! We make our own, pretty much like Nick has listed, and they play to great reviews. It’s all in what your customers want I suppose but I have a fair share of Italian blood in our area and we move a lot of meatballs!

I do use pork in other applications to great effect, but different proportion. It’s all about balance and finesse and knowing my sausage. ICK! Cumin doesn’t belong in my Italian sausage . . . meat, salt, fennel, black pepper. Ratio of beef to sausage is the key to the signature of the meatball. Like you said, fennel can overrun the whole thing if unbalanced by the beef/onion/parsley/ Heck, even the garlic needs a REALLY light hand in my recipe. I leave most of the garlic for the gravy.

We make our own as something of a signature item. I grew up on fried meatballs every Sunday. We tell the story on our menu - Sunday breakfast was fried meatballs in a cast-iron skillet with a salt shaker and a loaf of bread. The remaining meatballs went into the sugo for dinner. Our family’s recipe was ground beef only. At the restaurant we use 80/20 with lots of eggs, seasoned breadcrumbs, tons of garlic, parsley, basil, and parmesan cheese. We use 2.5 oz or so per ball and bake them for 30 minutes at 350 (to 160 degrees). However, we always save mix as a pizza topping (we try to use raw toppings whenever possible). We use some meatballs for a fried meatball appetizer and some go in our sugo for pasta and sandwiches.

It’s a very versatile product that is cheap and easy to make. A few hints from my experience:

  1. Use your hands to mix them. Using the mixer (for more than a few seconds) results in a rubbery texture akin to store-bought meatballs.
  2. Don’t add salt to the mix. It has a tendency to “cure” the beef red no matter how much you cook them. And, I promise you, you will never convince guests that a pink meatball is completely cooked.
  3. Do not reheat! If you hold the meatballs outside of sauce for the day, they need to go into the sauce at the end of the day. Ours lose substantial moisture in the steam pan!

Hope this helps.


Fontanini (Mama Ranne) Meatballs. We’ve used the 1 oz meatballs for 12 years. People love them. They are also available in ½ oz and 2 oz sizes.


Thanks for all your help. Two more questions… We only have a pizza oven set at 525. Don’t have a stove. Do you cook the meatballs in the oven and for how long? If we cook them half way and then put them in a steam table with sauce, will they be ok for meatball sands?


I recommend testing like several sizes run through once to see what they do . . . 1oz, 1.5oz, 2oz, 3oz. Stick a thermometer in each one and cut the cooked ones open and taste for texture. This will give you the best direct information how YOUR oven works with the balls. You may find that they all burn, or that some burn and some are undercooked and one is done right where it needs to be. If too big a size, then you can always cut in half to go into sauce for sandwiches if needs be.

Pick the one that gets closest to 165F and great texture/moistness. You gotta cook ground meat through as they won’t get to proper temp in a hot holding situation.