World’s Best Meatballs


Many of you may remember the post in which I struggled with coming to terms with my grandmother’s terminal illness (and the shockwaves running through my family at the news), eventually finding solace in cooking. Well, tomorrow I’m flying back to Canada again, as it appears my grandmother has only a day or two left, to spend some time with my family and say goodbye. It seems fitting, since I wrote about her cooking at the beginning of her illness, that I should revisit it at the end – as food and cooking were always so integral to who my grandmother was.

It was so moving to get so many comments and stories from other readers who have been in a similar situation, and it truly speaks to how much food and eating can bind us together as families, create tradition, and ensure we have a solid foundation when life throws a curveball.

If there is one dish that could said to have created the most solid of solid foundations amongst my family, it would be my grandmother’s meatballs – her culinary masterpiece exalted by all around. At large family dinners the meatballs were always the first to disappear, and people might drive for hours if they heard she was making them. They were my favourite food in the whole world for my first 16 years on this planet, and remain my ultimate comfort food.

The recipe originally came from my paternal great-grandmother who came to Canada from Italy and never learned to speak English. When my grandfather married my grandmother, she learned to cook them, but of course the recipe was altered slightly to accommodate 1950s and ’60s culinary techniques: garlic powder over real garlic, freeze-dried Parmesan, dried ‘italian seasoning,’ tinned tomatoes. It was kept secret for years and years – although sometimes I think my grandmother never taught anyone specifically cause no one asked. When I was 13 I plucked up the courage to ask for the first time, and she told me over the phone.


Over the years I’ve altered the recipe to suit my own style, and tried to bring it back to what I interpret as its ‘original’ state, in so much as I’ve substituted fresh ingredients wherever I can – freshly grated Parmesan and fresh basil for example. Once or twice I’ve even made it from hand-peeled and seeded fresh tomatoes. But strangely, it never seems to taste as good as hers… although that’s never the case with food from grandmothers, is it?

I love you Nana, and I’ll miss you.

Nana’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

For the Meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 egg
liberal handful of freshly grated parmesan
1 small bunch of fresh basil finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp Italian seasoning (or equal parts dried oregano, basil and rosemary)

For the Sauce
2 large tins of crushed tomatoes
1 small tin tomatoe paste (or puree)
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 onion
fresh basil
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt

Combine all meatball ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Let sit for 1 hour.
In a pot combine all ingredients for sauce (without chopping garlic or onions) except fresh basil and blitz with a hand blender.
Roll the meat mixture into largish meatballs and plop into the sauce. Then, without stirring, put them on the lowest heat possible, DO NOT TOUCH OR STIR for 2-3 hours. Then return, and skim off the fat into one of the tomato tins. Add whatever veggies you want (I usually put in mushrooms, green pepper and fresh spinach) along with the fresh basil (roughly torn) and let simmer for another hour or two.

The longer you simmer the more tender the meatballs will become! Also, if you eat all the meatballs, and still have sauce leftover, then throw in a fresh batch of meatballs and make yourself even more delicious sauce!

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17 Responses to World’s Best Meatballs

  1. Toni-anne says:

    Such a sad post to read. I hope you will be supported by all your friends and family.

  2. dancingkitchen says:

    My deepest sympathies to you and your family. May the comfort of your beautiful memories, help you during this time.

  3. jimmyj says:

    Sad post,..yes. I applaud you for discovering her critical ingredients: Love and care.These cannot be found in any recipe, but make the difference between “average” and extraordinary! Thanks for passing her Love on to others.

  4. Leverick says:

    Great looking recipe. what is a large “tin” in terms of ounces?

  5. rich chopik says:

    sorry to hear about your GRANDMA.i will make her meatballs tomorrow.our grandma’s live on through there cooking. it’s so important to keep there memory alive by cooking. i can still see my grandma in the kitchen with me and i remember so well what it was like cooking with her when i was a little boy.i’ll be 64 next month.god bless, rich chopik. p.s.i do all the cooking home because my wife never learned to cook from her grandma.

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  8. chris says:

    really made me think of my grandma too, she died in ’86… i have faint memories of her homemade sausage, always having hot and sweet 🙂

  9. Mel says:

    I am so sorry to read about the loss of your Nana. The last line you wrote before the recipe “I love you Nana, and I’ll miss you.” broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
    It’s true about a Grandmother’s cooking, it’s never the same when you make it yourself. When my grandmother and I first started cooking together, she told me her secret as to why everything she makes is so delicious and special: the most important ingredient is LOVE. I make sure to put love into everything I make and it always comes out yummy.

    I can’t wait to use Nana’s recipe. All the best to you!

  10. Wendi says:

    What a wonderful story. There is nothing like Grandma’s cooking! I, too loved my grandma dearly and miss her very much. My Me Me’s been gone for 5 years now. I am going to try your NaNa’s recipe tomorrow. I know it will be delicious. Thanks for sharing such a special part of your family.

  11. Paolo says:

    Hope you are doing OK after your sad loss. I am going to try this recipe tonight, sounds great.

  12. Hope you have good memories of your nana! They will stay with you 🙂

    Im a big meatball fan and so are my kids so will give this a try for them! 5 hours cooking time! Gotta be good!

  13. gqbound says:

    I stumbled across this recipe earlier this afternoon and decided to try it out. It’s 10:42 p.m. now and the house smells amazing. Trying to hold out and let it simmer for as long as I can.

    Thank you and thank Nana for this delicious recipe…

  14. Tia G says:

    How touching is your post! Excellent recipe from Nana.

  15. Host Papa says:

    Nana would be proud of you. Your post is very sincere and sweet.

  16. Fee Berry says:

    Sorry to hear about your grandmother. You don’t really mean two TABLESPOONS of salt, do you?

  17. missy says:

    one of the posts asked about the size of the ‘tins’…any answer yet? Also was wondering if anyone has used a slow cooker for this recipe? thanks

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