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meatballs in tomato sauce piled on serving plate

Traditional Sicilian Meatballs (prupetti)

The best authentic and traditional Sicilian meatballs (prupetti) recipe is of course my mom's! These meatballs are soft, moist and cheesy and not at all dry. Simmer them in a fragrant tomato sauce that you will serve tossed with pasta and enjoy the meatballs as a second course for the ultimate, perfect Sunday lunch. I'm sharing all my mom's tips for the perfect meatballs!
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Sicilian
Keyword Italian meatballs, soft meatballs, meatballs in tomato sauce
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 982kcal


For the meatballs:

  • 3 cups bread crumbs from day old bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 500 grams combined ground veal, beef and pork
  • 1 1/4 cups grated combined Parmigiano and Romano cheeses
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 jar tomato passata 720 ml
  • red pepper flakes optional
  • fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste


For the meatballs

  • Place the bread crumbs in a medium sized bowl, pour milk over them and toss to combine. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl combine the ground meat, cheese, parsley, garlic, eggs, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Squeeze excess milk from the bread crumbs and add to the meat mixture. Use your hands to gently combine all the ingredients.
  • Shape into 24 meatballs and place on the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.

For the tomato sauce

  • Meanwhile prepare the sauce. In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil on medium heat, add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and and red pepper flakes. continue cooking for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes before pouring in the tomato purée. Pour about 2 cups of water in the jar to rinse out remaining sauce and add to the sauce pan.
  • Add salt and pepper, to taste and basil leaves. Bring to a simmer and nestle the baked meatballs in the sauce. Let simmer partially covered for 2-21/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • When ready to serve, transfer the meatballs to a large bowl. Boil your favorite pasta, toss with the tomato sauce and serve as a first course. Serve meatballs as a second course with tossed salad and/or side vegetable dishes.


Can meatballs be frozen?

Yes, either before or after they are simmered in the tomato sauce.
After baking them, let cool and place in a freezer safe container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and add to the simmering tomato sauce as directed in this recipe.
If freezing after they are added to the sauce, let cool. Pour the sauce along with the meatballs in a large freezer safe container. Let defrost overnight in the refrigerator then place in a large sauce pan to completely defrost and heat through.

What types of ground meat can be used for making meatballs?

I am partial to the combined trio of ground meats including beef, veal and pork which add lots of flavor. However, you may use only 2 varieties of ground meat if you prefer or if you don't have access to all three varieties.

Can dry breadcrumbs be used in place of fresh breadcrumbs?

Yes, but the results will simply not be the same! Fresh breadcrumbs soaked in milk offer a soft and moist texture to these meatballs which can not be replicated with dry breadcrumbs.

Can other meats be added to the sauce?

Definitely! Along with meatballs other common additions to the Sunday sauce include a few sausage links; pork ribs and perhaps even braciole.
Please note that the nutritional information provided is approximate and may vary according to exact ingredients used and portion size.


Calories: 982kcal | Carbohydrates: 68g | Protein: 49g | Fat: 56g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 26g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 198mg | Sodium: 1590mg | Potassium: 803mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1208IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 646mg | Iron: 8mg