Deep-fried meatballs are a delicious traditional Italian meatballs recipe. These tender meatballs, flavored with parmesan, garlic, and lemon zest are the perfect finger food for any occasion, whether it's game night or a quick and easy weeknight dinner served with a vegetable stew. Make them as small balls to add to pasta al forno, lasagna or served in a consomme for a special hearty meal. With their crispy exterior and juicy interior, deep-fried meatballs are sure to become a new favorite in your recipe collection.
The origins of meatballs can be traced back to the ancient Roman cookbook, Apicius, which included several meatball-type recipes made from various meats like lamb and beef, and seasonings.
Over time, the classic meatballs have evolved and are now found in nearly every culture worldwide, made from various ingredients, such as pork, fish, chicken, and even exotic meats like ostrich.
Italian fried meatballs, or "polpette di carne," are a delightful variation that has become popular in recent years due in part to the prevalence of Italian cuisine across the globe.
These scrumptious, deep-fried treats are typically made with a mixture of ground meat (usually beef or pork), breadcrumbs, eggs, and seasonings, all shaped into balls and then fried to crispy perfection.
The inside of each meatball remains juicy and flavorful, while the outside provides a satisfying crunch, making them an irresistible treat.
You can also check out the recipe Italian meatloaf- Polpettone al Sugo and find out the Italian history about meatballs and meatloaf.
In this section, we will briefly go over the essential ingredients used in creating delicious deep-fried meatballs.
The ingredients are versatile, and you can experiment with different combinations to suit your taste preferences.
Firstly, the foundation of most deep-fried meatballs consists of ground meat.
- You can choose from various options such as lean ground beef, ground pork, or veal, depending on your preference and local availability. Combining different types of meat can add flavors and textures to your meatballs, making them even more scrumptious.
- Seasonings are crucial in enhancing the taste of your meatballs. The basic seasonings include salt, pepper, and fresh garlic to add a touch of savory flavor. Fresh herbs such as fresh parsley and basil are also popular choices, giving your dish a fresh, aromatic quality.
- Eggs and bread crumbs play a vital role in binding the ingredients together. Adding eggs to your meatballs helps them maintain their shape during frying, while breadcrumbs absorb moisture and prevent the meatballs from becoming too dense. For breadcrumbs is best to use stale bread as storebought breadcrumbs like panko breadcrumb tend to be too dry and flavorless.
- Adding a small amount of milk or using milk-soaked bread ensures that the meatballs remain moist and tender, keeping them from becoming overly dry when fried.
- Incorporating cheese, especially parmesan cheese, adds a creamy and rich taste to your deep-fried meatballs. For a deeper taste you can use Pecorino Romano, which is spicier.
- Lemon zest can also be used to give a subtle tanginess that complements the other flavors in the dish.
- The choice of oil is crucial for deep frying the meatballs. Neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point like sunflower or canola oil is ideal, as they don't overpower the meatball's flavors.
- Peanut oil and vegetable oils can also be used alternatively. Some recipes call for olive oil, but it's essential to use an oil with a higher smoke point if frying at high temperatures.
See the recipe card for measurements
Preferred Meat Variants
When it comes to deep-fried meatballs, selecting the right type of meat is crucial to achieving a delicious and flavorful result.
The most widely used meats for deep-fried meatballs are beef, pork, and veal.
Each of these options brings something unique to the table, ensuring that your meatballs will be mouthwatering and satisfying.
- Beef is a popular choice for meatballs due to its rich, robust flavor and presence of fat for a juicy outcome. For best results, use ground beef with a higher fat content, such as an 80/20 mix, ensuring that your meatballs stay moist during frying.
- Pork offers a slightly milder flavor compared to beef and provides a tender, juicy texture when used in deep-fried meatballs. Consider combining ground pork with another type of meat, such as beef or veal, to create a more complex flavor profile while maintaining tenderness in your meatballs.
- Veal is known for its mild and delicate flavor, making it an excellent choice for those who want something subtle yet delicious in their deep-fried meatballs. Using veal can result in a lighter and more delicate meatball, but using the right blend of seasonings and ingredients to offset its subtle taste is essential.
Another option is to create a mixture of two or all three types of meat to create a more diverse and interesting flavor in your deep-fried meatballs.
Experimenting with different ratios, such as equal parts beef, pork, and veal, can help you find the perfect blend that suits your palate.
Prevent meatballs from falling apart while frying
A problem you can have when making meatballs is that they fall apart when you are cooking them.
To prevent this, you must ensure you add the right quantity of breadcrumbs vs. meat and the exact number of eggs from the recipe.
Another important trick is to keep the palm of your hand wet with warm water when you roll the meatballs.
The water will prevent the meatball mixture from sticking to your hand and will form a smooth and uniform surface for the balls
You can start by preparing the ingredients for the meatballs, and you need first to let the breadcrumbs rest to absorb the milk.
1. Pour the milk over the breadcrumbs and let it absorb for 20 minutes
2. Mix the breadcrumbs with the rest of the ingredients for the meatballs mix
3. Wet the palm of your hand with warm water. It will help you make smoother meatballs.
4. Roll the meatballs and lay them on a cutting board
5. Prepare the fryer and heat up the oil
6. Deep fry the meatballs until golden brown
7. Lay them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil
I always recommend buying a deep fryer instead of an air fryer.
I don't fry very often, so when I do, I like to eat the real thing.
A deep fryer is also very convenient when you are entertaining, as you can fry large quantities of food in no time.
If you don't have a deep fryer you can use a large frying pan and a slotted spoon to remove the meatballs from the frying oil
I have a stock of prepared ingredients stored in my freezer to save time when I need to prepare dinner.
Homemade Italian Flavored breadcrumbs are certainly one of them.
I don't like store-bought breadcrumbs as they tend to be dry, however, making them fresh each time it is very time-consuming.
So I make a large batch once a month and freeze it.
I mix them with garlic, basil, and parmesan so they are ready to be used in the recipe.
Frozen breadcrumbs do not solidify so you can just pick what your recipe requires and keep the rest in the freezer.
If you want to know what else I keep in my freezer, you can read the article: Once a month freezer meal prep
Storage and freezing
If you wish to store your cooked meatballs, allow them to cool completely.
Then, place them in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Additionally, you can freeze the uncooked or cooked meatballs sealed in a freezer bag for up to three months.
You can fry them directly from frozen, making sure they are thoroughly cooked.
Be cautious, as frozen meatballs may splatter when added to hot oil.
To reheat frozen cooked meatballs, place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper in a preheated oven at 350°F (180°C) for 15-20 minutes or until thoroughly warmed.
Popular Accompaniments and Sides
When it comes to deep-fried meatballs, there is no shortage of options when looking for the perfect accompaniments and sides.
Whether you're serving them as an appetizer, main dish, snack, or finger food, getting the right combinations can elevate your meatball experience to a whole new level.
You can't go wrong with a rich tomato sauce for a classic and comforting meal. The tangy tomato sauce adds a burst of flavor and moisture.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a lighter option, a simple vegetable stew or a hearty salad can be a great addition to your deep-fried meatballs.
You can accompany deep-fried meatballs with a tangy dipping sauce when serving them as an appetizer or finger food.
This option works well for parties, ensuring your guests can easily enjoy your delicious meatballs without the need for cutlery.
Finally, if you're searching for something a little different, why not make your deep-fried meatballs into small balls and use them as a filling for Southern lasagna or pasta al forno.
As a festive starter for my Christmas dinner, I like to serve them in warm, clear beef consommé in tea cups.
Combining the meatballs with vegetables
Deep-fried meatballs are a crunchy meaty delight, and as a contrast to their crumbly texture, I like to serve them with a creamy vegetable stew. However, I don't want to add anything buttery or milky as the deep frying is already very rich.
I like to serve them with sweet potatoes and broccoli or an Italian baked ratatouille, but you can use any vegetables you like.
To make a vegetable stew I use a cup of my own tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes, which I preserve for the winter every September.
You can also use brown or chicken stock instead of tomato sauce depending on your vegetables. Make sure you have a starchy vegetable like potatoes or beans to thicken the sauce.
I always have a stock of homemade chicken stock in the freezer and in the link, you can find more about it.
Homemade chicken stock is one of my secret ingredients in many dishes. It is creamy and very tasty.
The broth and the vegetables moisten the meatballs creating a perfect balance of texture, flavor, and juices.
When frying meatballs, it's important to choose an oil with a high smoke point and a neutral flavor. Common options include sunflower oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil. This helps ensure that the oil doesn't interfere with the taste of the meatballs while also preventing the oil from breaking down at high temperatures.
If you're frying frozen meatballs, first let them partially thaw—at least until soft enough to easily spear with a fork. Then, heat the oil to medium-high heat and fry the meatballs for about 3-4 minutes per side or until they're golden and crispy. Be cautious, as frozen meatballs may splatter when added to hot oil.
It depends on your preferences. Frying meatballs gives them a crispy exterior and a rich flavor, while baking tends to result in a more uniform texture and leaner result due to less oil being absorbed. Baking can be a healthier option, while frying offers a more indulgent taste. Ultimately, you should choose the method that suits your tastes and dietary preferences.
To ensure that your meatballs are cooked through while frying, take care to maintain a steady oil temperature. If the oil is too hot, it might result in an undercooked center, while low temperatures can lead to greasy, soggy meatballs. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature (which should reach 160°F or 71°C) before removing them from the oil to ensure they're cooked through. Keep in mind that smaller meatballs will cook faster, while larger ones may take longer to cook.
More deep-frying finger food
Who doesn't love deep-fried food, I certainly do, and I like to keep it traditional, no air fryer.
Here are some deep-fried finger food you may enjoy:
More meat finger food
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📋 Italian Crispy Deep Fried Meatballs Recipe
- Pour the milk over the breadcrumbs and let it absorb for 20 minutes1 ½ cup breadcrumbs, ¼ cup milk
Making the Meatballs
- Mix the breadcrumbs with all the ingredients for the meatballs mix¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan, 1 clove peeled garlic cloves, 10 leaves fresh basil leaves, 1 lemon zest, 1 lb freshly minced lean beef, 2 fresh eggs, 2 teaspoon salt, 1 onion diced
- Wet the palm of your hand with warm water. It will help you make smoother meatballs.
- Roll the meatballs and lay them on a cutting board
- Prepare the fryer and heat up the oilvegetable oil for frying
- Fry the meatballs
- Lay them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil
- To prevent the meatballs from being too dry, add the milk to the breadcrumbs
- To prevent the meatballs from breaking while cooking, add the right quantity of breadcrumbs vs meat and add the exact number of eggs as from the recipe
- keep the palm of your hand wet with warm water when you roll the meatballs. The water will prevent the mixture from sticking to your hand and will form a smooth and uniform surface to the balls.