Mama Musto’s Meatballs

Those of you with a keen eye may have noted the lack of one basic recipe in my Italian offerings.  What is spaghetti without meatballs?  This recipe for my mother’s meatballs plugs up that hole.  Now, if only the hole in my heart were as easy to fill.  What…who… am I without my mom?

My sisters and I lost our wonderful mom this past week.  She died of ovarian cancer—a terrible form of a terrible disease.  We were happy that my mom made it to her 83rd birthday on February 1 and was well enough to enjoy the celebration.  She was a tough woman to keep down–in fact, the week before she died, she made a pot of sauce for her hospice caretaker and herself to have with a plate of spaghetti!

My Sicilian mom was definitely a force to be reckoned with.  Four years ago, when she couldn’t get a contractor to come out and clean the gutters on her three-decker home, she climbed up the hatch ladder to the (thankfully) flat roof.  She then proceeded to use a broom to sweep out the leaves from the gutters!  Of course, she waited until it was a fait accompli before she told any of us.  I told her that I could just see the newspaper headline, “79-year-old woman falls from roof of 3-story house.”  I told her I would send her a check to pay for the gutters to be cleaned, but that wasn’t the issue.  The issue was she wanted it done when she wanted it done—which in her case was usually yesterday.  As I have often fondly said of her, “Don’t mess with a Sicilian!”

My feisty Sicilian mom

As I’ve mentioned before, my mom was a wonderful Italian cook.  She didn’t own a cookbook and she never measured anything yet I don’t remember any of her meals being anything but delicious.  Once I figured out how to make her fresh Italian bread crumbs and documented it, making her meatballs became a piece of cake.  If you’re in need of a good recipe for meatballs, look no further.

I love you, mom.  I’ll miss you forever.

Mama Musto’s Meatballs



Before you start making the meatballs, you should have made a batch of tomato sauce.  I didn’t need to tell you that, did I?  By the way, I always double my recipe for tomato sauce when I make meatballs as I usually make 2 pounds of meatballs.

Place the hamburger in a large bowl.  Add the egg and bread crumbs.  Roll up your sleeves and use your hands to mix the ingredients together.  As all eggs are not created equal and since one cannot always buy a package of hamburger that is exactly one pound, you may have to add slightly more bread crumbs OR you may have to add a tiny bit of water.  What you want is to be able to form a meatball without it sticking to your hands or an ice cream scoop if you use one to form the meatballs.  After you’ve had a little practice, you’ll know exactly what the mixture should feel like.  Making meatballs is one of the rare times that I don’t measure exactly and just go by the feel of the mixture.

Be sure to add the minimum of 3/4 of a cup of bread crumbs to one pound of hamburger.  Once you’ve mixed the bread crumbs in, pick up a hunk of the mixture and take a sniff—the aroma of the garlic and cheese in the bread crumbs should be very apparent.  Form your meatballs–depending on the size you make them, you should get 10 to 12 meatballs per pound of hamburger.

My mother always fried her meatballs in oil, and I did for many years myself.

Mom frying her meatballs

About ten years ago, I started baking them at 350o for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them over halfway through the baking.  You don’t need to have them totally browned—just top and bottom of the meatball is enough because they will finish cooking in the pan of sauce.

Approximately two pounds of meatballs

After you have finished baking the meatballs, add them to the sauce which should be hot and simmering on your cooktop.

Simmer them for approximately one hour.  They will add a wonderful flavor to the tomato sauce as they finish cooking.  Serve with your favorite pasta.

Buon Appetito!
Save some meatballs for a sandwich!
Mom holding fresh basil she grew in a pot on her back porch

Source:  My dear mom, Tina Musto

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