Meet bolognese meatballs. All the flavors found in authentic bolognese sauce rolled into a tender meatball. Bonus? No simmering for hours on the stove —only 45 minutes! So cook up a little tagliatelle and get ready for an easy weeknight meal or cozy Sunday supper with the family.
I've said it before and I'll say it again...meatballs are welcome at most any occasion. We even had homemade Italian sausage meatballs at our wedding! And if I had tasted one of these delicately flavored meatballs bolognese, they just might have been served up instead.
p.s. don't tell my darling dad...he made more than 800 sausage meatballs for that day.
Bolognese meatballs— not meatballs bolognese
So what's the difference?
This bolognese meatballs recipe is not that.
Imagine, instead, rolling up all the satisfying flavors of traditional bolognese sauce into melt-in-your-mouth meatballs and then simmering them in a rich red sauce.
And all in about 45 minutes, making it a great weeknight meal. This recipe is that.
Bolognese meatballs starts with the Holy Trinity of Italian cooking, known as carrots, onions, and celery.
Followed by a splash of white wine like a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon blanc.
And a mix of 80% ground beef (for fat which equals flavor) and ground pork. The pork is amped up just a bit more with some pancetta (Italian salt-cured bacon).
How to make bolognese meatballs
Saute pancetta in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost crispy. You don't want it so dark that it burns or is too crispy because both will affect the taste and texture of the meatballs.
TIP: If you have a favorite meat market, ask the butcher to grind the pork and beef together to save you a bit of time. You'll also get the freshest product that way!
Grab a large mixing bowl and combine both meats together. Mix them well to make sure that both the pork and beef are thoroughly blended.
Chop up the Holy Trinity (celery, onions and carrots). Saute the vegetables in the pan where you cooked the pancetta (you'll have removed it and drained it on a paper-towel lined plate. Saute the veggies until translucent and slightly golden for about 5-6 minutes.
Pour in the white wine and allow the alcohol to cook off for about 2 minutes. All that will be left behind is the delicate but acidic flavor of the wine.
After the wine is cooked, pour the wine-soaked veggies over the meat mixture and using your hands, thoroughly but gently work in the breadcrumbs, herbs and seasoning into the meat.
Use your hands or a medium cookie scoop to roll the meat mix into 2" meatballs. Lay on to a baking sheet sprayed with baking spray and bake at 400˚ for about 10 minutes until browned and golden.
Cook in San Marzano tomato sauce for about 35 minutes or so until moist and tender.
Tips for Italian red sauce
I recommend using San Marzano tomatoes with this recipe because their sweetness and low acidity works amplifies the flavor of the meatballs. If you'd like to know more, check out my guide to identifying legitimate San Marzano tomatoes.
You could also cook up a batch of tomato sauce with butter and onion, my favorite tomato sauce recipe courtesy of Marcella Hazan.
Cook up your favorite store-bought brand of tagliatelle or use this easy homemade pasta recipe to make fresh tagliatelle at home.
Bolognese meatballs also make an outstanding meatball sandwich with homemade garlic bread and fresh mozzarella. The ultimate comfort food, right?
Make ahead and storage tips
Storage and Reheating
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45 Minute Bolognese Meatballs with Tagliatelle Pasta
For the meatballs:
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil more if needed
- 3 oz pancetta
- 1 carrots finely diced
- 1 celery finely diced
- ½ onion finely chopped
- ½ cup white wine , it has to evaporate completely; you can use red if you prefer
- 1 lb ground beef I use 80%
- 1 lb ground pork
- ½ cup panko
- 1-2 slices of soft bread, crusts removed to make ½ cup
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- 1 recipe San Marzano tomato sauce
- 1 lb tagliatelle pasta, or homemade tagliatelle, cooked al dente
- Preheat oven to 425˚
- Make San Marzano tomato sauce recipe.1 recipe San Marzano tomato sauce
- In a large mixing bowl, mix both meats until combined.1 lb ground pork, 1 lb ground beef I use 80%
- Saute the pancetta in the olive oil and remove once browned, about 3-5 minutes.1 Tablespoon olive oil more if needed, 3 oz pancetta
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
- Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pan. Season with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook until soft but not browned.1 carrots finely diced, 1 celery finely diced, ½ onion finely chopped
- Pour the wine into the vegetables and cook over medium high heat until absorbed, about 2 minutes.½ cup white wine
- Add the softened vegetables to the meat mixture and mix to combine.
- Add in the breadcrumbs, eggs and seasoning and mix thoroughly. Pour in chicken broth and mix again. Mixture should be very wet.½ cup panko, 1-2 slices of soft bread, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¾ cup chicken broth
- Using a medium cookie scoop, form mixture into meatballs and set on a baking sheet.
- Bake meatballs for 10 minutes until browned.
- Add to tomato sauce in a large stockpot. Simmer for at least 45 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and flavorful.
- Serve meatballs over tagliatelle pasta or use in a meatball sandwich.
About Lori Murphy
Lori has over 30 years in the food industry as a marketing strategist, culinary instructor and chef for three kids with discerning palates. As the chief content creator at Josie + Nina, Lori is dedicated to helping home cooks create food memories through fresh ingredients and Italian flavors.