Go Back
+ servings

Polpette al Sugo - Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Polpette al Sugo - Juicy Italian meatballs in a rich tomato sauce. This traditional Italian recipe is perfect for a family Sunday dinner, easy to follow and packed with flavour. Serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up every last drop of sauce (fare la scarpetta!).
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 398kcal
Author: Emily Kemp


For the meatballs

  • 1.1 lbs ground beef (500g)
  • 1 large egg free range
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs (60g)
  • Salt and pepper to season

For The Sauce

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 14 oz cans chopped canned tomatoes high quality (800g)
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste (puree in UK)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to season

For Serving

  • Freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • Torn fresh basil leaves


  • Put all the meatball ingredients in a food processor and blitz until thoroughly combined and smooth. Next using your hands, shape the mixture into meatballs by rolling them one by one in the palms of your hands. This should make 12-13 meatballs.
  • Top Tip: When rolling the meatballs they should be shiny and smooth with minimal to no cracks on the surface.
  • Heat a little olive oil in a pan and brown the meatballs on all sides, set aside on a plate. Next, saute the chopped onion in the same pan until soft.
  • Place the cooked onion in a blender with good quality canned chopped tomatoes and blitz until smooth. Add the sauce to the pan with salt, pepper and tomato paste. Rinse out the tomato cans with a little water and add that to the sauce (fill each can about ¼ full) Simmer the sauce on a low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Add the meatballs back to the sauce and gently toss them so they are covered in the sauce, simmer slowly for 30 minutes.
  • Serve with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese and torn basil leaves.


  • Good quality ingredients make the best tasting food - it'll come at no surprise that using high quality ingredients creates beautiful tasting food. I say this in all our recipes because it makes such a difference especially when it comes to tomatoes.
  • Best tomatoes to use - use a brand that you trust, if you haven't found one yet then I recommend using Mutti or Cirio tomatoes. I've heard great things about Cento tomatoes in the US but have never tried them because they're not available here.
  • Rolling the meatballs - when rolling the meatballs the surface should be shiny with minimal to no cracks. You can wet your hands if they are sticking too much.
  • Brown the meatballs - searing the meatballs on the outside not only creates a flavourful crust around the meatball but it locks in the juices where all the flavour is.
  • Variations - you can use different cheese, herbs or vegetables if you like. See our recipes for Eggplant Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (meat-free) and Baked Chicken Meatballs.
  • Storage and freezing - leftovers will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days or can be frozen. Defrost completely before reheating.


Calories: 398kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 129mg | Sodium: 165mg | Potassium: 528mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 235IU | Vitamin C: 4.8mg | Calcium: 84mg | Iron: 4.1mg