Sicilian-Style Meatballs are a unique take on a classic Italian meatball – they’re studded with pine nuts and currants, bringing the North African influence into these flavorful, texture-packed meatballs. They’re incredibly simple to make – from the meatballs themselves, to the no-fuss, garlicky tomato sauce. These meatballs are absolutely wonderful, especially when served with a crusty baguette, and a nice glass of red wine!
There’s nothing better, cozier, or more timely, than ringing in December with a bowl of homemade meatballs. There’s something about them that just screams holiday, comfort, nostalgia, and family. I’ll be the first to admit that although I’m Italian, I’ve never been to Sicily and been taught exactly how to make true, authentic Sicilian meatballs. However, this is my take on them – I just LOVE the addition of pine nuts and currants. My grandma’s family is from Naples, and I do have her meatball recipe which is different from these, but still so, so good. I might just have to share that recipe soon too!
These Sicilian-style meatballs are obviously slightly different from a classic Italian meatballs, thanks to a few things: pine nuts, currants, and ground allspice. I find it so fascinating how Sicilian cuisine has taken on the influence of ingredients in North-African cooking, because of it’s geographical location. Things like nuts, dried fruit, and cozy spices. These 3 ingredients just add something special to an otherwise simple classic beef meatball.
I just love them!
There are a few things that make these Sicilian meatballs so darn good:
- Soaking a couple pieces of plain ‘ol white bread in whole milk – in addition to using breadcrumbs. This trick makes the meatballs extra tender!
- Don’t overwork your meat when mixing it together – otherwise the meatballs will end up tough, dry, and crumbly.
- Lots of grated parm – a whole 1/2 cup! We like our cheese over here.
- Pine nuts and currants – they add texture, nuttiness, and a slight sweetness. Complements the tomato, garlic, and savory nature of the meatballs and sauce SO well.
- Allspice and crushed red pepper – these spices give the meatballs that “What is that?”, as well as a little touch of spice.
These Sicilian meatballs are first pan-fried with a little olive oil, and then are finished off by simmering in a simple sauce. Just olive oil, lots of garlic, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salt. Super simple, but this is where the quality of your tomatoes can really shine – make sure you use the good Italian stuff here!
I love serving these meatballs with a hunk of crusty baguette, but they’re equally as delicious over pasta, spaghetti squash, by themselves, or whatever base you enjoy most!
They also freeze really well – as we’re going into the chillier months and the holidays, it’s always a good idea to have a quick cozy meal or appetizer at-the-ready!
Here’s a quick run-down of the whole Sicilian meatball making process:
- Mix up your ground beef. The milk-soaked white bread, garlic, eggs, chopped fresh Italian parsley, fresh oregano, lots of grated parm, Italian style breadcrumbs, allspice, crushed red pepper, currants, pine nuts, salt, and pepper! In order to achieve the most tender meatball, be sure not to overwork your meat – make sure to crumble up your soaked bread and slightly beat your eggs, so that everything incorporates more easily into the meat!
- Roll your meatballs into golf ball sized meatballs (or whatever size you like!) – I like a medium sized meatball. Feel free to use a cookie or ice cream scoop to keep them uniform + for the rolling to go more quickly.
- Fry your meatballs. I like to fry them in 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, just for a couple minutes per side, to achieve color and flavor. They will finish cooking in the sauce!
- Make the simple tomato sauce. Sauté your garlic in a good amount of olive oil, then add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salt. Bring the sauce to a simmer, and add your meatballs!
- Let the meatballs finish cooking in the sauce. You can simmer for as short as 30 minutes, but an hour or longer is even better. The sauce just gets better and better!
- Finish the meatballs with plenty of freshly grated parm, and serve them with a crusty baguette or pasta of your choice!
- A glass of red wine is highly recommended also. 🙂
I’ll also mention that like most sauces and Italian food, these meatballs just get better in the fridge as the days go on!
If you love these meatballs, you’d also love these recipes:
- Braised Pork Ragu Pasta
- Green Olive Pasta with Toasted Lemon Breadcrumbs and Herbs
- Double Tomato and Corn Bruschetta Pasta with Burrata
- Broccoli Pesto Pasta with Roasted Vegetables
- Shrimp Pasta with Dill Pesto and Garlic Roasted Tomatoes
- Burrata Baked Ziti with Sausage
- Creamy Lemon Lobster Fettuccine
Can never have too much pasta, right?!
Don’t forget to share a photo on Instagram and tag me @spicesinmydna if you make this recipe! Nothing makes me happier than seeing what you create in the kitchen!
Sicilian-Style Meatballs are a unique take on a classic Italian meatball - they're studded with pine nuts and currants, bringing the North African influence into these flavorful, texture-packed meatballs. They're incredibly simple to make - from the meatballs themselves, to the no-fuss, garlicky tomato sauce. These meatballs are absolutely wonderful, especially when served with a crusty baguette, and a nice glass of red wine!
For the meatballs
- 2 slices white bread, crust removed
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef*
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 1/3 cup dried currants
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (for frying)
For the sauce
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Begin by placing the white bread in a bowl. Cover with the milk - ensuring that all of the bread is moistened by the milk. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients together.
Place the ground beef in a large mixing bowl. Add the soaked bread (crumble it between your fingers into very small pieces to ensure it gets evenly incorporated), eggs, garlic, parsley, oregano, parmesan cheese, currants, pine nuts, breadcrumbs, salt, allspice, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Work the meat together with your hands, making sure all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Be careful to not overwork your meat - or else you can end up with tough, dry meatballs! Form the meat into golf ball-sized meatballs - you should get 20-22 meatballs total.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Once hot, add the meatballs in batches, cooking for about 2 minutes per side, 4-5 minutes total, rolling them around on all sides for even cooking, until golden brown on the outside. Transfer meatballs to a rimmed baking sheet or plate.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds - 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salt. Stir to combine. Cover and bring sauce to a simmer. Once simmering, add the meatballs, gently stirring them into the sauce. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes. An hour or longer is even better!
Season to taste the sauce with additional salt if needed. Serve meatballs with freshly grated parm, a baguette, pasta, or whatever you wish!
*I like to use 80/20 or 85/15 ground beef for these meatballs for optimal flavor and texture.
*These meatballs freeze beautifully for up to 3 months.