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5 from 8 votes

Polpette di Pane

Polpette di pane are meatless meatballs made with homemade breadcrumbs, eggs, cheese, and parsley simmered in a simple garlicky marinara.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 16 meatballs


Quick marinara sauce

  • 2 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes hand crushed or blender pulsed - see notes below
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 large basil leaves hand torn

Meatball mix

  • 2 1/2 cups homemade breadcrumbs can also use plain storebought
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecorino Romano grated
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup parsley minced
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic grated


For the quick marinara

  • Heat a large pan or pot to medium-low and add the extra virgin olive oil along with the garlic. Saute the garlic until golden and fragrant (about 2-3 minutes) then add the hot red pepper flakes.
  • Add the tomatoes to the pot and stir well. Bring the sauce to a simmer.
  • Once simmering taste test the sauce and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Before serving add the basil. Keep the sauce warm at a low simmer while moving on to preparing meatballs.

For the polpette di pane

  • To make the breadcrumbs pulse 5-6 slices of day-old white or Italian bread in a food processor. Measure our 2 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs and save the rest for another use.
  • Beat the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together.
  • Place the breadcrumbs, parsley, cheese, and garlic into a large bowl and pour the egg mixture on top. Mix well so that the milk and eggs can rehydrate the breadcrumbs.
  • If the mixture is too wet and will not form a meatball that holds its shape add a bit more breadcrumbs and mix again. If too dry add a touch more milk or another beaten egg.
  • To form the meatballs dip your hands into a bowl of water then grab a golf ball size's worth of the mix. Roll together and place the formed meatball on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat the process of dipping hands in water and form all the meatballs.
  • Place the baking sheet into the freezer for 10 minutes so that the meatballs can solidify a bit and set. After 10 minutes, gently place the meatballs into the sauce and stir slowly so that they don't touch. Cook for 20 minutes at a low simmer.
  • Serve as an appetizer with a sprinkle of parsley and basil and more grated Pecorino Romano. Enjoy!


  • If the meatballs are too dry, add another egg or a touch more milk. If too wet add more breadcrumbs and mix again.  The goal is a round ball that mostly keeps its shape when placed in the sauce.
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.  Reheat on the stovetop until warmed through or in the microwave.


Calories: 120kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 7.3g | Fat: 4.4g | Saturated Fat: 2.2g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 317mg | Potassium: 61mg | Fiber: 0.8g | Sugar: 1.3g | Calcium: 142mg | Iron: 1mg

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